Mumbai (1661-1947) | The Land and the Sea
“It took a determined governor, the goddess Mahalakshmi and a grim tragedy, to fuse the seven islands into what is today’s Mumbai.” (David, 1995, p.7)
Bombay’s topographical history is a marathon struggle between land and sea. The physical features of Bombay has been altered drastically by levelling of hills and reclamation of “drowned lands” (also known as “Flats”). The earliest reclamation projects traced back to the 16th century while the islands was under the Portuguese rule. Large tracts of land was reclaimed and cultivated with a vellado (wall) built to dam the Great Breach that later on flooded the central part of the island in the 18th century. The reclaimed land was initially used to grow salt batty or coarse rice and subsequently contributed to the establishment of the railway and mills in the 19th century. (Dossal, 2010, introduction xxxii)(Dossal, 2010, p.18-19)
A survey concerning “overflowed land” in 1673 showed 473 acres of land could possibly be recovered. It would be more economical if the reclamation was done by private companies rather than the Government, thus, small projects started to perform at that time until the Government renewed their interest in land reclamation in 1684 when the desire for additional land and revenue arised. (Dossal, 2010, p.18-19)
The first official reclamation project under the British rule was approved by William Hornsby in 1784 to build a great sea wall to close the Great Breach. One-third of the land was recovered and connection between the western and eastern shores was made possible. (David, 1995, p.8) The town was then expanded northwards transforming the morphology of Bombay in the 18th century. The road that leads to the junction between Haji Ali and Worli was built on the foundation of the vellado (wall) reinforced in the 1780s. (Dossal, 2010, p.18-19)
David, M. (1995). Bombay, the city of dreams. Bombay: Himalaya Pub. House.
Dossal, M. (2010). Theatre of conflict, city of hope. Oxford: Oxford University Press.