Mumbai’s Emergence as a Global Business Hub and Climate Crisis Epicentre By Faisal Magray  Mumbai, India’s largest metropolis, has experien...

 Mumbai’s Emergence as a Global Business Hub and Climate Crisis Epicentre

By Faisal Magray 

Mumbai, India’s largest metropolis, has experienced rapid growth in recent years, making it a significant global hub for business and trade. However, this expansion has also made it the epicentre of India’s climate crises. Constructed primarily on reclaimed land, Mumbai is currently grappling with vast social and economic disparities, leaving its inhabitants vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Several factors contribute to the threats faced by city, including unregulated urbanization, severe urban heat, rising water levels, wetland destruction, disappearance of mangroves, plastic pollution, and a strained drainage system. These challenges aggravate the city’s climate crisis, impacting the quality of life for its inhabitants. 

The city faces significant difficulties during the southwest monsoon season which spans from June to September. This period is characterized by heavy rainfall, high tides, and flooding, particularly impacting coastal neighbourhoods near the Arabian Sea. The  cyclone Tauktae alone killed 21, damaged 2,542 buildings, shut Mumbai Airport for nearly 12 hours and other devastation in the coastal Konkan region. It was estimated that cyclone Tauktae in 2021 caused coastal fishermen to lose 10 billion rupees (£109,000) – the damage alone to fishing boats was worth 250,000 rupees (£2,700).

“From last 15 years, I have been witnessing a lot of changes in Mumbai weather.  The  irregular rainfalls, storms, sea level rise are common now. In 2021,  I went into huge business loss  due to the pandemic. I have been into fishing business and living in Mumbai with my family from last forty years, now it’s getting very difficult to survive here as I’m seeing decline in fish catch also .  I have borrowed money from my friends and relatives to start a  business again and at the moment I’m in complete debt. If situation remains same I may have relocate to some other place for livelihood” says Raju Solanki

The Arabian Sea has experienced a notable increase in the frequency of cyclonic storms between 2001 and 2019. According to a paper in Elsevier’s Earth Science Reviews published in 2022, the sea surface temperatures over the Arabian Sea has increased by 1.2°C to 1.4°C in recent decades compared to four decades ago which provides favourable conditions for the formation and intensification of cyclones. This has had a devastating impact on the city's infrastructure and economy, with many people being forced to relocate due to rising sea levels.  

The Coastal Road project in Mumbai, one of the most expensive infrastructure development projects, is set to stretch 35.6 kilometres and connect the entire western coast of Mumbai. The ambitious project aims to create 90 hectares of land by reclaiming the inter-tidal western coast of the city’s shoreline. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 6th Assessment Report (AR6) has raised concerns about the potential environmental impact of the project.  “Our family has been in the fishing business for generations, but now the Arabian Sea presents us with a challenge we haven't seen before. In the past decade, cyclones have grown fiercer and more frequent, leading to fewer days of fishing and a decrease in fish production. Climate change is taking its toll on us, and we are feeling the negative impacts.” says  Kumar Koli , a fisherman.

The IPCC’s AR6 report has red-flagged the Coastal Road project, warning that the impact of rising temperatures could extend beyond Mumbai and affect a significant portion of rural Maharashtra as well. Furthermore, citizens’ groups and environmentalists have raised concerns that the project will destroy the region’s unique ecology and the livelihoods of traditional communities who depend on the inter-tidal zone for fishing. 

“The "bombil" fish, also known as the Bombay Duck, was once commonly caught along the Mumbai coast in abundance but due to plastic pollution and drastic changes in weather it is now found further north in neighbouring districts, according to the Kumar Koli , a local fishermen.  He says we have to use more fuel and spend more time to go out into the deep sea and in turn we catch smaller amounts of fish, despite the rising cost of fuel”

Over the next few years, Maharashtra is expected to face the twin challenges of both water scarcity and flooding, apart from higher temperatures, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report. The Report findings specific to Maharashtra, have been authored by Anjal Prakash, research director of the Bharti Institute of Public Policy at the Indian School of Business, and Joyashree Roy, a professor at the energy economics programme of the Asian Institute of Technology. “Higher temperatures could lead to more heat waves, which could pose a significant health risk to the State. Maharashtra has already experienced water scarcity in recent years. Some crops could become more difficult to grow, while others may benefit from a warmer climate,” the report highlights. It also warns of an increased risk of flooding in many regions due to climate change. Maharashtra has already experienced severe flooding in recent years, and this could become more common in the future.

The report suggests, “The State has a long coastline, and rising sea levels could threaten coastal communities and infrastructure. The sea levels could rise by up to 1.1 meters by the end of the century, leading to increased flooding and erosion along the coast.”

Maharashtra Government has launched the Mumbai Climate Action Plan (MCAP). The plan is essentially designed to reduce emissions and meet the climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 °C. With the MCAP, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) aims to help Mumbai become a climate-resilient city. The plan has been drafted by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) with support from World Resources Institute (WRI) India.  MCAP has assessed the risk and vulnerability of the city across five parameters -- urban heat, urban flooding, landslides, coastal risks and air pollution. It has charted the impact across socioeconomic, physical and infrastructure and service aspects. The plan has suggested strategies across six sectors with 24 action tracks.

Children play cricket along railway track filled with garbageand plastic waste in Mumbai, India. The mismanagement of waste in India has severe consequences on climate change and public health.

The warming of the Arabian sea is causing a corresponding rise in sea levels, which is more noticeable on India's western sea board than on the east..
Raju Solanki, a 56-year-old fisherman, carefully placing sun-dried fish into his basket at thefishing harbor in Mumbai, India.

The general view of the runway built across Mithi River inMumbai, India. The 18-kilometer long Mithi River, which flows through Mumbai's residential and industrial areas such as Powai, Bandra Kurla Complex , and Asia’s largestslum Dharavi, is lined with houses and buildings.
Plastic waste and garbage items float in Mithiriver near Kandivali in Mumbai, India.

Workers shredding and sorting plastic garbage for recycling in the Dharavi slum area ofMumbai, India. Dharavi slum is the recycling hub of Mumbai, believed to be host to at least 15,000 singleroom factories dealing with at least 80 percent of Mumbai's plastic recycling as well as other recyclables.

Construction work of Coastal Road Project underway, at Worli in Mumbai, India. In 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 6th Assessment Report (AR6) has observed that the Coastal Road project, which is one of the most expensive infrastructure development projects, stretching 35.6 kilometres and connecting the entire western coast of Mumbai has been red flagged.

The general view of buildings draped with tarpaulins to withstand the intense monsoon rains in Bandra, Mumbai India. The city faces significant difficulties during the southwest monsoon season which spans from June to September.