Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, has become a concrete jungle. Once a beautiful island with greenery, wildlife, and clean beaches, it is now covered with buildings, roads, cement, and trash. The city of Mumbai still has greenery and wildlife, but the number of buildings, infrastructures, and humans outweighs it. Mumbai is becoming a concrete jungle.
Mumbai is an island that has beautiful coastlines and clean seawater. Today, on its coast, one can observe several buildings. The city of Mumbai also has a forest- Sanjay Gandhi National Park, located in Borivali, Mumbai, is a protected forest with wildlife. However, according to the latest news, the protected park may slowly become a concrete jungle. Some cases of illegal construction inside the park have been reported.
Will Mumbai lose all its greenery completely? Is it really a concrete jungle?
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A Concrete City
Mumbai is becoming a concrete jungle. The concrete jungle of Greater Mumbai has increased further at the cost of its green cover. Going back all the way to 1926, around 77.88 sq km of Mumbai was a built-up area- approximately 17 percent of the city’s total 438 sq km. By 1992, the number increased to 246.16 sq km- 50 percent of the total.
Approximately 216 percent increase was seen in various kinds of infrastructure and construction over the past 66 years. At the same time, a 67 percent decrease was seen in the amount of open and reserved forest land combined. A 19 percent decrease was also seen in the city’s essential wetlands, including buffers like mudflats and mangroves.
Urbanization in Mumbai increased every year; during five years from 1987 to 1992, the amount of built-up area in the city grew by 33 sq km. If urbanization grew in Mumbai at the same speed- 33 sq km every five years- then in 2009, there would be 100 sq km more built-up land than in 1992. Imagine the amount of built-up land today in 2022.
With new constructions and developments increasing every year over the past years, the actual amount of built-up land could be much higher.
Even the Bombay High Court has something to say about the growing concrete jungle. In 2020, a Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court expressed great concern about the speedy disappearance of greenery and open spaces in Mumbai and other places in urban India. The Bombay HC stated that cities are increasingly turning into concrete jungles, while the Nagpur Municipal Corporation struck down a tender to commercialize a park.
It is obvious that urbanization is the cause of Mumbai becoming a concrete jungle. And with more people in the city, more development occurs. The city’s population in 2014 was approximately 19,601,845– growing at an average annual rate of 2.4 percent since 2001.
The population in 2001 was around 14,344,154– increasing at an average annual rate of 2 percent since 1991 when the population of Mumbai was 11,786,684.
The urban extent of the city in 2014 was 70,533 hectares– growing at an average annual rate of 3.9 percent since 2001. In 2001 it was 43,000 hectares- growing at an average annual rate of .6 percent since 1991, when its extent was 36,681 hectares.
Between the period from 2001 to 2014, a total of 19,762 hectares of built-up area was added to the city’s urban extent. Of that total, 20 percent was Infill, 16 percent was Leapfrog, 18 percent was Extension, and 47 percent was Inclusion.
This data is only till the year 2014. We can see an increase in population, built-up area, and urban extent. Urbanization, development, and migration kept increasing after 2014. We can only imagine the urban extent today.
Rapid urbanization and development in Mumbai have major consequences, especially for native wildlife, ecosystems, and habitats. Even though wildlife is abundant in Mumbai, and some species have even managed to adapt to this concrete jungle, several areas, including habitats, bio-diverse forests, and more, are degraded and shrinking.
The worst impact of Mumbai’s concrete jungle is the open landscapes with scrub and grass, which along with cultivated land, was once the most widespread habitat in Mumbai. Around 80 percent of grass and scrub have entirely disappeared. They have especially disappeared in regions of Raigad and Thane, where urbanization and development have increased in the past decades.
As the grasslands disappeared, so did the larks. The Raigad district, including the areas around Navi Mumbai (New Mumbai) right up to Alibaug, has some of the healthiest ecosystems and habitats. However, they also are under threat from development and increasing urban projects.
Hundreds and thousands of trees were chopped down and lost due to development. These native trees then tend to be replaced with fast-growing species of trees or ornamental exotics that do not attract species of birds and butterflies.
Due to Mumbai’s concrete jungle, Powai Lake has become a dumping ground for fish, including alien species like tilapia, carp, and more. Invasive species are strong colonizers and severely affect the native fauna.
It is clearly evident that Mumbai is becoming a concrete jungle. Will the residents of Mumbai survive in such a jungle?
Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.