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Photo essay: Rivers of the Island City


Mumbai has four rivers: Mithi, Oshiwara, Poisar and Dahisar, which are (together) 40.7km long. And yet, for most part, they remain invisible to the city’s population. Today, haphazard development policies along with encroachments, have led to the rapid deterioration of these rivers, which have been practically reduced to drains. A photo essay by Pooja Jain.

Pooja Jain

It takes only a few years to turn a naturally flowing river into a drain. Mumbai (Bombay), is the financial capital of India. Increased industrialisation and urbanisation has now transformed the riverscape of the city. Mumbai has four rivers: Mithi , Oshiwara , Poisar and Dahisar, which are (together) 40.7km long. And yet, for most part, they remain invisible to the city’s population.

Mumbai originally was built around seven islands; a fine bay surrounding the city, 300 years ago. In due course of time, the bay area was reclaimed to meet the growing needs of the city. The radiant plan attracted many developers and consequently the islands grew into suburbs and developed very rapidly. Slums have become a constant feature of urban landscape. Slum dwellers are encouraged to sell their lands to the builders to construct high rise buildings. The encroachment of the high rise buildings along the river has weakened the endoskeleton of the city.

Global capitalism plays a role in the spatial transformation of the city, while its consequences for the socio-economic status of the minorities are very severe. Slums, for example, are not ‘natural phenomena’ but the outcome of particular policies and political actions. Haphazard development, reclamation, concretising of the flood plain, reinforcing concrete walls and the insufficient waste disposal system along the stretch of the river adds to the river’s deterioration and general degradation of the ecosystem.

‘Rivers of the Island City’ is a photographic project that aims to question the layered social, political and biophysical challenges faced by the city as a whole.

You can view Pooja’s web portfolio here 

A mosque stands on the bank of the polluted Mithi river at CST road, Mumbai, India.

A middle-class housing complex flanked by concrete walls along the Mithi river

The river faces the threat of decay as it receives industrial waste and domestic sewage in large quantities.

The construction work for Phase 3 of the Mumbai Metro along the Mithi river has increased the risk of floods.

This SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Authority) building has been constructed along the Dahisar river outside Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), to provide accommodation for the dhobis (washermen).

A concrete wall built along the edges of Dahisar river inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

Slums line this branch of the Dahisar river.

High-rise buildings built by encroaching on the dry riverbeds of Oshiwara river.

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