Our recent field visit with the TRANSCEND Project Team to potential growth areas in Mumbai unveiled stark realities of urban expansion overshadowing environmental and climate concerns. From the northern reaches beyond Thane to the mangroves near Chirle and the eastern saltpan areas, the relentless pressure on land reveals a city at a critical juncture between growth, environment, and society.

The Vasai Creek: A Story of Encroachment

North of Thane, the story begins with the area along the Vasai Creek. The riverside is prepped for recreation and bordering the city boundaries. This vacant land in between is waiting to be developed.

Chirle: Mangroves on the Brink

Crossing over to Chirle via the new trans-harbour link, we encountered pristine mangroves facing the threat of urban encroachment. Despite the ecological importance of these areas, preparations for construction signify a move towards development, sidelining the environmental and climate risks inherent in losing such vital green spaces. The first steps towards this development have already been taken, with hills removed to pave the way for new residential areas closer to Navi Mumbai.

Eastern Saltpan Areas: Housing vs. Habitat

The eastern saltpan areas, stated as “[…] the last open spaces in Mumbai which also act as holding ponds for rainwater […]” (Hindustan Times, 2024), are proposed for Dharavi’s slum resettlement. The plan to convert eastern saltpan areas into a resettlement zone for Dharavi’s slum dwellers is steeped in controversy and highlights the complexities of urban planning, ecological integrity, and social equity.

Reflections on Urban Development’s Environmental Cost

Mumbai’s expansion illustrates the tension between urban development and environmental stewardship. The city stands at a crossroads, with its growth aspirations potentially compromising its ecological and climate adaptation. This perspective emphasizes the need for a balanced approach to urban planning that harmonizes the demand for land with the imperative of environmental sustainability.