MUMBAI/ Reordering the old city 3 – From control of land to control of street

Reordering the old city 3

A way out of the dead-end – From control of land to control of street

Physically acquiring the land, demolishing the old buildings, building to fulfill sanitary standard and leasing it out on standardized contracts is the sequence the trust envisioned. The Trust realized the inefficiency for this strategy to work regarding the challenges they encountered in taking control of the land. Hence, the trust came to flavor street schemes over slum improvement scheme after the first decade. It is argued that the control of street provided a way for the trust to improve sanitary and the quality of housing stock in old city indirectly.

In macro scale, the trust constructed “streets for hygiene”, east- west roads such as the Princess Street and the Sandhurst Road, running from the congested inner parts of the old city towards the coast to bring in fresh sea breeze.

Princess Street Scheme “a new street running from Queen’s Road to Carnac Bridge which opens up a wide passage through thickly crowded quarter, clears several very insanity areas and provides a new thoroughfare for traffic”(AARBIT, 1899)

Sandhurst Road Scheme “a broad 80 feet road, running through the heart of the city from Back Bay to Elphinstone bridge near the harbor to remedy the defective ventilation of the parts of the city traversed by it and to increase the existing means of communication and facilities for traffic”(AARBIT, 1899)

Mumbai Map @2014, Namrata Kapoor
Mumbai Map @2014, Namrata Kapoor

In micro scale, the trust argued that the lack of street regulation contributed to the city insanitary. Before the Trust, streets, also referring to the public space was not subject to state rules. Thus, landowners would compete with the adjacent landowners and expanded their buildings until all available space is filled up. The irresponsible behaviors of landowner to maximize short term rental revenue caused public health issue and was a “tragedy of the commons”. As H.V.R.K Kemball, the chief engineer of the Trust argued,

“The effect of driving a good street through a slum is the general improvement of the district through which it passes” (Kemball, 1907)

A good street can result in the appreciation of land price which act as a market force. The landowners were driven by the market to clear the slum and upgrade their housing. As the trust failed to acquire land, it utilized the market equilibrium and shifted the “burden” of sanitary improvement to the landowners.



David, M. D. Bombay: The City of Dreams ; (a History of the First City in India). Bombay [u.a.: Himalaya Publishing House, 1995.
Kidambi, Prashant. The Making of an Indian Metropolis: Colonial Governance and Public Culture in Bombay, 1890-1920. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2007.

Rao, Nikhil. House, but No Garden: Apartment Living in Bombay’s Suburbs, 1898-1964.

1 Comment on “MUMBAI/ Reordering the old city 3 – From control of land to control of street

  1. The series of historical documents and the narratives form a tight connection around the question of hygiene in Mumbai. And the street became a visible recognition of this health value. Planning would be preoccupied with the importance of ventilation, daylight, access, sewage, maintenance, and so on, as you’ve rightly revealed. Modern planning is essentially about health, as you seem to be arguing. Continue to strengthen this point.

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