4. Mumbai – Cleaning up the mess and attempts that failed

1. Kinetic City Now

2.Special growth and evolution under colonization – dramatic urbanization

3. Urban Spectacles? Urban Horror. Whose fault to blame?

4. Cleaning up the mess and attempts that failed

5. More plans and conclusion


Cleaning up the mess and attempts that failed

The plague left a deep impression on the British. They could no longer ignore the housing problem, and the bold steps needed to be taken; improving the water supply, drainage, sewage, roads, schools and housing – to bring the city up to the standard that would do it credit. The Backbay Project was the plot. It was a make believe that by providing land for the upper class residences would relief overcrowding in the working class neighborhoods. It was a vision to open up the sea to a row of palmtrees, and residential quarters that are laid out in neatly lined rectangular plots. It was only a vision that divided physical spaces and drew geometrical shapes to produce a visually compelling plan of society. This grand plan failed disastrously, if the plan was envisioned and built it could not serve the housing of the poor anyway, but it didn’t even complete because the costs seemed prohibitive particularly because land prices had fallen off sharply since their wartime highs.

Planners after independence

How to apply western urban planning methods to Bombay without undermining its Indianness? A sense of identity.

Are architects the best planners?

In 1947 the elevation of the planner’s authorities heeled. In the dream world of planners Bombay appeared primarily as a configuration of industries, buildings, houses and streets, a system of production, communication and circulation. This was evident from the very beginning of urban planning in Bombay. Bombay’s planners were dissatisfied with the unplanned growth which created the problems of congestion, overcrowding, unsightly buildings and unsanitary and inadequate housing were spatial problems. The planners believed in efficiency and organization, the keywords that they believe would save the city. Expansion without the regional master planning meant that urbanization and industrialization could not occur efficiently. And so the plan at that time was to open spaces and suburban towns were expected to accommodate the growing population with an efficient transportation system linking the suburbs to the city. `

One way in which the planners incorporated Indianness in their imagined metropolis was to treat it as a matter of architectural design and aesthetics. In order words modern housing must express the character of the place in its style, even the urban design wishes to put the dream metropolis as a city nestled between hills and the sea.

The Two City Plan

The old plan did not reach its objectives. In 1973 a new plan was envisioned, to divert the growing population away from the island city to the new city, named New Bombay, which they estimated would reach a population of two million by the year 2000. The idea was to restrict industrial development and encourage the service sector as the growth engine of New Bombay. Lands acquired at the market rate for agricultural fields, then developed and sold at commercial rates would finance the whole development project, including the cost of building roads and railway lines. Idealistically, New Bombay would reorientate the Island city to the water and it would be a clean planned city providing affordable accommodation thus fixing the slum problems, a utopia could be realized.

The idealistic plan was half succeeded, a new city was built and its inhabitants were the majority of migrants from the Island city, however the new city was turning into a dormitory to absorb distress migrants and has fueled the speculative real estate market. This was not what the planners had in mind. The main reason for this failure would be the lack of support from the government, they refused to move offices to the mainland in the fear that if Bombay ceased to be the seat of state power the Island City would become a Union Territory. I believe this is one of the cases where the planners were dreamers who weren’t able to look into the social aspects of urban planning deep enough to start planning.


The Island city in 1909
The Island city in 1909

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