A patch of virgin land first detected by satellites 7 years ago has now been officially proposed to be part of Mumbai. SANDEEP ASHAR explains what popped out of the sea and when, and what happens to it now.
What is this new land?
First spotted in satellite images from 2009, a mass of land, mostly mudflats with a lush mangrove cover, has now been added to the geographical limits of Mumbai. The land mass, almost 1,496 hectares or 14.96 sq km, hugs the eastern coast from Airoli in the eastern suburbs to Sewri in Central Mumbai. That is over six times the size of Dharavi, often referred to as the largest slum in Asia. This means the financial capital’s geographical sprawl has gone from 67.79 sq km to 82.75 sq km. It’s an addition to the city by a fifth of its existing size. However, much more hearteningly, the addition is an entirely new forest — and the city’s mangrove forest cover has now risen from 4,663 hectares to 6,160 hectares.
How has it been ‘found’ now?
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is in the process of revising its draft Development Plan 2014-2034. The area had been shown as being outside BMC limits in maps drawn last year amid a failed attempt to finalise the DP. Planners have taken note of the additional area and included it in the city’s limits only in the current phase of drafting the plan. Satellite images captured the land mass when the city’s existing land use was mapped as part of the revision process.
What will come up here?
Nothing, for now at least. City planners have clarified that the area has been marked as a ‘Natural Area’, which is to be preserved. While No-Development Zones are proposed to be opened up for affordable housing and social amenities, Natural Areas will remain untouched. The area will remain an open space out of bounds for any kind of construction. What’s more, even if the BMC proposes to let the area be enjoyed by citizens as an open space or through nature trails, the land is currently still partly marshy, and not in a condition for safe visits.
How did the land emerge from the sea?
Planners said the additional land on the coast appears to have formed through a natural sedimentation process, though the BMC is yet to initiate an ecological study on when it was formed, and how. Civic chief Ajoy Mehta has said that he would soon commission such a study.