Imposing Street Pattern in Mumbai(I) – Improved Sanitary and Controversial Way

Envisioning the sanitary city ‘as a place of flows, movements and circulation’, quote by Joyce in his book ‘Rule of Freedom’, the City Improvement Trust was influenced by the ideas popular in the metropolitan context. The Trust would like to transform the city into ‘an orderly city characterized by the free movement of people and commodities’ since the visions of uninterrupted circulation were essential to the spatial arrangement of the city in 19th century Europe.(Kidambi, 2007) Moreover, the analogies from new medical doctrines in which considered the unrestricted passage of air and blood as the crucial precondition of a healthy body was also drawn and applied to urban planning at that time. Thus strong attention was paid on developing street schemes by the Trust in a bid to tackle the ‘sanitary disorder’ of the city raised after the plague.

The street grid pattern helped improving the sanitary of the community since it bored modern sewers, drains, and ventilation to the insanitary and ill-ventilated housing.(Rao, n.d.) Not only laying out street grid in the old city, the Dadar-Matunga Scheme was the first scheme imposing the street pattern on a large area of land before construction of settlements. It gave a well ventilated and order environment for the community. Thus with unrestricted passage of services and airflow, a healthy environment could be achieved.

Image (3)
Map of Bombay Island, 1909. The area of Dadar, Matunga and Sion are still a vast agrarian landscape without clear street grid. The ©Edinburgh Geographical Institution.
The northern part of Bombay in 1933, which showed the extensive street pattern in Dadar-Matunga. Bombay Guide Map. Regenstrein Library, University of Chicago.
The northern part of Bombay in 1933, which showed the extensive street pattern in Dadar-Matunga.
©Bombay Guide Map. Regenstrein Library, University of Chicago.

However, the way of imposing street grid by the Trust was controversial.

The Trust carrying Improvement Schemes embodied a ‘physical-planning concept’ with the central powers of ‘clearance powers’. It was supported by the right to acquire property which named as ‘ a right of demolition and, along with that, a right of redevelopment’.(Kidambi, 2007) Their primary goal was clearing of the slums which health and housing quality had to be improved. Nevertheless, clearance was carried without settling the residents properly and caused even worse sanitary condition in the area nearby since more congested environment was created with flocking of original residents of the developing area.(Kidambi, 2001)

Moreover, instead of saving newly built bungalows, the Trust destroyed them after acquired the land and returning the land to the same owner to lease the land and rebuild the bungalow again. It was such a waste of resources and the reason behind of it was ‘the real goal of the Trust – take control of the land’.(Rao, n.d.) It will be further discussed in the next entry –  Imposing Street Pattern in Mumbai(II) – Control of Land and Property Price


Kidambi, P. (2001). Housing the Poor in a Colonial City: The Bombay Improvement Trust, 1898-1918. Studies in History, 17(1), pp.57-79.

Kidambi, P. (2007). The making of an Indian metropolis. Aldershot, England: Ashgate.

Rao, N. (n.d.). House, but no garden.


1 Comment on “Imposing Street Pattern in Mumbai(I) – Improved Sanitary and Controversial Way

  1. Is it interesting to see how The Trust is able to make major moves in shaping the city. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to look at why the Trust became a powerful decision maker of Mumbai, the backgrounds of people involved in The Trust, and whether they comply with the visions of other city planners of Mumbai.

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