Imposing Street Pattern in Mumbai(II) – Control of Land and Property Price

As mentioned in the previous entry, street pattern was imposed widely in Mumbai by the City Improvement Trust. And one of the real objectives of the Trust was, by laying a regular and order street grid, control of land could be obtained. Thus the land could be free from older forms of tenure while changed to standardized leases. Therefore the Trust could create ‘a more uniform and smoothly functioning land market’, which had the ability to respond to the need of housing.(Rao, n.d.) Furthermore, the nature of the buildings that would be built in the suburban area could be under control and being regulated.

Street grid pattern are imposed along the Eastern Avenue@1916-17, Maharashtra State Archives
Street grid patterns are imposed along the Eastern Avenue@1916-17, Maharashtra State Archives

By imposing street pattern along the the major road, the Parel Road, also known as Eastern Avenue, the pattern of development of surrounding could be under control thus a continuity of property values between the suburbs and the city could be established.(Rao, n.d.)

Moreover, the intensity of the building could be controlled by the street system as index. Building heights and setbacks were determined by the street which now served as an index and regulator. Plots divided are under surveillance of street after imposing street pattern. Thus property values could be stabilized. By comparing the two figures, a grid of streets and buildings can be seen in the later development, replacing the originally overwhelming agrarian landscape.(Rao, n.d.)

The Dadar-Matunga-Sion sector before development. The plots are still irregular bur emerging of alignment of regulaer building plots can be seen. ©Regenstein LIbrary, University of Chicago
Dadar-Matunga Scheme had impose a large street pattern on a large area of land. Design Cell, Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institue for Architecture and Environmental Studies.
Dadar-Matunga Scheme had impose a large street pattern on the originally overwhelming agrarian landscape.
©Design Cell, Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institue for Architecture and Environmental Studies.
grid - Copy
Detail of southwest portion of the Dadar-Matunga Scheme. Regular building plots can be seen. © BIT, Annual Administration Report, 1916-17. Maharashtra State Archives

Unfortunately, the Trust again created new problems.

Apart from overcrowding problem worsened as mentioned in the previous entry, the large-scale demolition to impose street pattern also reduce the amount of available land for building sites. It led to an increase of property price and the rents of houses in the neighborhood. ‘It is common knowledge that the Board cannot compete with the private owner for they acquire property, demolish houses, prepare sites and dedicate one-third to roads and passages. The price of the remaining land must therefore be high.’ mentioned by the Bombay Municipal Corporation.(Kidambi, 2001) Besides, there were numerous difficulties faced when valuing the property such as there was not any established precedent for such valuation. And it caused various quake in the property market.

Thus by imposing street pattern, the Trust had created numerous troubles and even worsen the sanitary condition which it originally established to improve. However, the policies of it had ‘profound, albeit unintended, consequences for the development of Bombay’s spatial organization and social geography’.(Kidambi, 2007)


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.


4 Comments on “Imposing Street Pattern in Mumbai(II) – Control of Land and Property Price

  1. I believe it is indeed quite fascinating in discovering that The Trust laid a regular and order street grid in order to control the land that could be obtained, hence being free from older forms of tenure while changed to standardized leases. Question is, how did The Trust become so powerful in able to making such bold moves in shaping the city in the first place? What is the background of them being involved? It is always convenient to document and justify the city’s development through the analytical lens of the planning ordinances. Not only does it serve as a structure for urban arranging, however the edge in which one begins to follow a city’s foot shaped impression and evaluate around a city’s change. All things considered, all through the few variants of regulations made over years, how have these inferred the social/demographic parts of the city?

    • It was, indeed, the power given by the colonial government for the Trust to work out a solution after the severe plague in 1896 which bombarded the city in various aspect. To improve the sanitary condition of the old city and the slum area was the original primary goal of the Trust while developing the suburb was one of the solutions to relieve the congested environment of the old city area. Thus it was considered mostly about residential uses of the newly developed area at first. Since the first generation of the poor of the area established with sophisticated development including infrastructure, the second generation which was the middle class that would like to pursue a better living environment, had been gradually occupying the area and pushed the poor to further suburb area. And the Dadar area was then being modified into a more diverse community such as having various institutional land uses.

  2. The creation of the new avenue served not only as an infrastructure to the city, but also a new hierarchy in urban formation, such as the smaller grid that growths from it, and the buildings sizes and heights that were controlled by new regulations and circulation. It would be more comprehensive to look at other than sanitation, what else the road created along with the implementation of the new hierarchy towards the vast suburb area, such as housing typologies and the social class that moved away from the older fabric.

  3. What interests me here is the physical aspects. The way that the grids are formed, perhaps similar to the process that the British colonisation did to the nearby Ahmedabad, reminds me of certain cities such as Shanghai or Washington. Perhaps through comparisons with those cities, in terms of environmental conditions, social conditions, economical assets and the difference or similarities, and examining in a very small scale what the effect of this are, one might be able to synthesise qualities that a grid could create without forgoing the unique qualities and identites of each city.

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