‘Maximum city’ under pressure: Mumbai and its contested spaces of development
Mumbai belongs to the world’s megacities, and is in flux. More than 20 million people live in the larger metropolitan area and 12 million in its core. Constrained by geography, surrounded on three sides by the sea and a creek, the city has long been grappling to find space for its expansive development.
By Hans Nicolai Adam (Postdoctoral Fellow, Noragric) and Synne Movik (Research Scientist, NIVA).
Descending into Mumbai and entering the newly built, swanky international airport terminal provides a first glimpse of the extremes that earned India’s financial capital the popular description of ‘maximum city’. Vast expanses of slums surround the airport periphery, which appears like an island of tranquility and well-organized modernity amongst an otherwise – at least outwardly – chaotic cityscape of unregulated settlements, hectic construction activity and perpetually deadlocked traffic. In its most densely populated parts, a million people jostle for space across a single square kilometre.
View of the bounded Mithi River next to the Mumbai International Airport. (Photo: Hans Adam).
Originally built on reclaimed land along a chain of seven islands, city planners have attempted to relieve pressure by promoting vertical growth, as well as channelling city development towards the inland by promoting the establishment of satellite cities and building an entirely new town, Navi (‘new’) Mumbai. These attempts have so far not succeeded in solving most of Mumbai’s problems – problems that tend to be social and political in nature.