ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mumbai’s Blinkered Vision of Development

Sacrificing Ecology for Infrastructure

Drawing on a discussion of five infrastructure projects in Mumbai, the lack of comprehensive focus in policy on environmental issues is highlighted. A project-wise focus and an unsustainable pattern of urbanisation have distanced the city development plans of Mumbai from achieving essential, interdependent goals of ecological health, environmental justice, and well-being.

The authors gratefully acknowledge Azim Premji University for funding the research.

There is a pervasive human aspiration for development, forged through “the ideals of modernity disseminated since World War II” (Lele et al 2018: 2). The appeal of development has fascinated planners of Indian cities for decades. Yet, in practice such development has not only bypassed the environment, but also helped in the systemic destruction of ecosystems and the essential services they provide for Indian cities. Rapid urban transformation has taken place with little or no consideration of the complex and interconnected impacts of land-use change, tree felling and ecosystem destruction, impacting the ecological resilience of cities. Local environmental impacts, including an increase in urban heat islands, air pollution and environment-related epidemic outbreaks are on the rise across urban India (Nandi 2018). These impacts will only strengthen over time, as Indian cities continue to grow and expand, driven by a combination of internal growth and rural distress (Revi 2008: 214).

The fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, Working Group III) finds that urban areas globally account for close to three-fourths of the total greenhouse gas emissions (Seto et al 2014: 928). Climate change will have severe environmental and socio-economic impacts on cities, exacerbating the effects of local environmental change. Despite the fact that it is crucial for cities to have clear emission reduction targets, very few do so, and most of these are aspirational, neither reflecting actual mitigation potential nor appropriate implementation (Seto et al 2014: 973). In fact, the coming decades are anticipated to witness soaring investments in public expenditure and infrastructure projects.

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Updated On : 12th Mar, 2019
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