Between the early 1990s and 2005, Mumbai and Thane lost a whopping 40% of their wetlands (including mangroves) to development projects.
Hundreds of acres of swamps, which existed along the Mithi River and in the Mahim Creek, had been destroyed for urban construction projects. This is a major reason why the floods of 2005 had such a great impact on Mumbai; its wetlands, natural absorbents and sinks of flood water, had been replaced by tall, unstable buildings.
In the past, Mumbai depended on wells, ponds and lakes for its water supply. However, due to inadequate civil planning, Mumbai is fast losing its wetlands and consequently, facing problems in terms of basic water facilities and sewage and storm water drainage.
In 2005, Mumbai’s water demand was 3,900 Million Litres per Day (MLD). However, the water supply was only 3,050 MLD.
In Mumbai, huge water losses occur due to leakages in water pipelines and illegal water connections that tap into these pipes. It is estimated that these two factors together account for 30–50% of water loss in Mumbai.
The real problem is that the water system is mismanaged and misused through unmetered and unaccounted water supply. Moreover, low tariff rates, the policy of subsidy, low recovery rate and metering and billing errors burden the system.
In 2005, the waste generated in Mumbai stood at about 2600 MLD .
Mumbai’s wetlands are at a risk since huge amounts of domestic and industrial wastes are dumped into its lakes, ponds, creeks and rivers.
Mumbai’s mangroves - one of its most important wetlands - that protect the city from flooding and other effects of climate change too stand threatened today, because of unchecked encroachment and toxic pollutants.
Mumbai’s population has risen to 22 million in 2015 from only 9.9 million in 1991.
The city’s population is expected to rise up to 28 million by 2030!
As the commercial and economic hub of the country, Mumbai attracts a number of people every year. This is one of the many reasons the city’s population is growing at a steady rate.
Its healthy wetlands, on the other hand, are vanishing one by one.
This means that in a few years, Mumbai will be exerting even more pressure on its finite and (already) over-exploited resources - pushing itself into a severe water crisis.
The city and its people need to take conscious measures in order to ensure that Mumbai does not run out of water.
Numerous organisations in Mumbai are working together to protect the city’s wetlands through research, documentation, and by raising awareness among citizens. Restoration and plantation of rare species of mangroves are also some projects that are underway in Mumbai. These projects aim at increasing mangrove cover in Mumbai and improving biodiversity.
Environmentalists, citizens and local authorities too have the option of approaching the high court in case their neighbouring mangroves and other wetlands are being threatened. They can also text complaints or upload photos of mangrove destruction on City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd. (CIDCO) website.
Click here to learn some other ways in which you can help Mumbai’s taps and wetlands from running dry!
An inlet in the shoreline of the Arabian Sea, Thane Creek is amongst the largest marine bodies in an enclosed area in India.
The Creek has been attracting over 30,000 flamingos since 1994. It was therefore declared a Flamingo sanctuary by the Maharashtra government in August 2015. Besides supporting a large congregation of Flamingos, the area is a refuge for many other resident and migratory birds.
However, in the past 14 years, 58 out of 69 marine species have completely disappeared from the creek! Experts blame the colossal damage on high levels of arsenic. As untreated waste, industrial effluents and plastic are released into the creek, its oxygen levels decrease whereas the temperature goes up considerably – destroying aquatic life. Construction projects are another major reason the mangrove cover in the wetlands is decreasing.
The Thane creek is 26-km-long and covers a ground area of 1,690 hectares.
The Nerul Lake covers an area of 4,000 square metres and has a water level of 1.5 m. It once had a rich, dense mangrove cover and was visited by numerous migratory birds every year.
The Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC), responsible for the lake and the area around it, initiated measures in 2015 to save the wetland. Plans included a 1.5-km cycling track and a 2.6 km jogging path around the lake, as well as, an amphitheatre and an open air gym. This arrangement, it is hoped will create more awareness among people, helping conserve the depleting mangrove cover. It will also, as per the plan, help make the city more tourist-friendly!
The Ulhas River not only supplies drinking water to the cities of Badlapur and Navi Mumbai; it also serves as a source of livelihood for the numerous small villages that depend on it for fishing and farming.
The river receives most of its water from the southwest monsoon during the months of June to October and drains an area of 4,637 sq km across Thane, Raigad and Pune districts.
However, the river begins to change its color once it gets closer to Mumbai – turning into a dirty green near Karjat, where drain pipes release untreated industrial waste into it. This is a clear reflection of the impact that growing human and industrial activity has on our water bodies.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has now imposed a fine of nearly Rs. 100 crore on polluting entities, which may include government agencies and industries along the river’s course.