2. Brief History of the City
3. Naming of the City
4. Bombay Before Reclamation
5. The Seven Islands
b) Old Woman’s Island
a) Phases of Reclamation
i. First Phase of Reclamation
ii. Second Phase of Reclamation
iii. Third Phase of Reclamation
b) Reclamation on the Basis of Existing Islands
ii. Old Man’s Island and Bombaim
v. Parel & Worli
c) Powers/ Companies who undertook the project(s)
i. Elphinstone Land Reclamation Company
ii. Back Bay Reclamations Company
iii. Port Trust
iv. Public Works Department
v. The City Improvement Trust
vi. Abandoned Works
1. Introduction: Mumbai is the financial capital of India. It is one of the busiest natural harbours in the country. About 80% of the National Income generated in India is from Mumbai alone. Its cultural ethnicity is so diverse that it often makes one wonder the peace with which culturally, ethnically, etc different people live together. Yes, there have been records of one major 1993 riots but no other episode ever after that or prior. In fact the recent rains which took place in Mumbai on 26th July, 2005 showed the humane side of the city as well as the physical damage done to the city, making it look like a group of islands again where even the reclaimed land was submerged under water. Yet on a deep thought, the success of what the city is today, the credit undoubtedly goes to the reclamation undertaken in the city. No effort has so greatly contributed in rendering Bombay habitable as the reclamation of land from the sea. In fact, Bombay owes everything of its physical outline to successive reclamations; it is a factitious city whose present land mass has a slight affinity to what existed before the organized force of man began molding its physical history.
2. Brief History of the City: Present day Mumbai extending from Colaba to Dahisar –Mulund stretches over a major part of insular Salsette, with its southward protruding
There are records of habitation on the island about as early as from the Mauryan period in the 6th Century BC.
When we talk of
Infact the area from Bandra upwards was earlier a part of
The Greater Bombay Scheme launched by the British government on 1st October 1945. Municipal limits were now extended till Jogeshwari on the western side and Bhandup on the Central side in 1950. It was only in 1957 that the
3. Naming of the City: The Greeks called it the Heptanasia meaning the 7 islands. While the Arabs choose to name it as ‘Al Omanis’ the very famous Old Man’s
The well laid out streets with handsome buildings made the town look elegant. The soil was sand mixed with small gravel and that made the place look clean even during the monsoons.
There was no flooding at all as the reclamation of low lying areas had not yet begun. The extensive esplanade carpeted with smooth bowling-green, made walking or riding around the town very pleasant.
Prior to 1860, very little of the reclamations had been done. The city by then was filled with foul smells all over and improper sewage system. Reclamation brought about a desirable change. For eg. to travel by rail from Bori Bunder to Byculla or to go to
Companies sprang into existence which together with the government was responsible for the Apollo Bunder,
5. The Seven
a) Colaba: whose name is a corruption of the Koli name Kolbhat. The southern tip a narrow tongue of rocky land known as Kolabhat. The completion of the Colaba Causeway between
b) Old womans’ island: (alternatively, Old Man's Island) a small rock between Colaba and
c) Bombaim: It is the third island which was quite large and in the shape of the alphabet H. To the west of this ridge running along the length north-south, called the Malabar Point, as the Malabar pirates used to be sighted from this location. The central and the eastern parts of the island were low-lying flat ground. There was a small hill on the northwest edge called Dongri. To the south of this island was a shallow bay, later on to become the
a) Mazgaon: The name is variously spelt – ‘Mazagnao’ or ‘Massegoung’ by the Portuguese and early English writers. It has been defined by some to be ‘Mahish – grama’ (the buffalo village) and by others to be the central village on the analogy of the Marathi ‘Maza ghar’ (central portion of a house). There is yet another theory which says that the word Mazagaon has been derived from the Sanskrit Matsya Gram, meaning fishing village.
Some also believe that the word ‘Mazgoan’ is a corruption of ‘Machcha-grama’ (fish village) in allusion to the large colony of Koli fisher folk who were its 1st settlers. In 1742, Mazgoan contained one of the six great Koliwadas of Bombay.
d) Mahim: The crescentic shaped land was an old sand bar, known as Baradbet later named Nevale and again renamed as Mahikavati. It was from the northern tip of this island, Dharavi, that ferry boats used to ply to the larger island complex of Salsette. Mahim took its name from the river and was the capital of a 13th century kingdom founded by Raja Bhimdev. 1784 saw the completion of the first land reclamation project. The Hornby Vellard (named after William Hornby, the governor now known as Lala Lajpatrai Marg.), where Breach Candy now stands, joined the main island to Mahim. By the time the Mahim Causeway (between Mahim and Sion) was finished in 1845, the city’s present-day landmass had more or less taken shape.
e) Worli: To the south of Bharadbet was an elongated island with a hilly backbone known as Worli. The north of
f) Parel: On the east was an irregular shaped island with a broken coastline and hills on the east flanks and tidal marshes in the north. This island, known as Parel, had vast covers of tamarind groves and prickly pears. North of Mazagaon and called by many other names, including Matunga, Dharavi and Sion. The original population was predominantly Koli. The first causeway between islands (the Sion Causeway) was completed in 1803.
i) First Phase of Reclamation:
The seven islands of Bombay when they originally came in the hands of the British from the Portuguese, included Colaba, Old Women’s Island, Bombay, Mazgoan, Parel-Sewree-sion, Mahim and Worli. They were then separated by narrow creeks which could be crossed over during low tide. Therefore, between 1784 and 1845 four raised causeways were constructed which welded together these disjoined islands.
1. Hornby Vellard (1784) at Mahalaxmi united Cumballa Hill with Worli;
2. Duncan Causeway (1803) joined Sion with Kurla (Salsette);
3. Colaba Causeway linked
4. Mahim Causeway (1845) joined Mahim with Bandra.
This phase consisted of all the smaller reclamations taken place within the city. It was executing the smaller schemes and strengthening of the island from within. It was the implementation of smaller plans of schemes like Nagpada scheme, Frere Estate, Mody bay Estate, Ballard Estate etc.
The 3rd phase of Reclamations was the most controversial of the projects, the one launched by the Back Bay Reclamation Company which came into being in 1863. Fortunately, before the company came to an abrupt end it had reclaimed a precious strip of land west of
b) Reclamation on the basis of the existing
i. Colaba: Although Gerald Aungier took possession of Colaba and Old Woman's
By 1796 Colaba became a cantonment for troops. At the southern end of the island, called
With the completion of the Colaba Causeway in 1838, these remaining two islands were joined to the others. The price of land shot up. Colaba became a centre of commerce with the opening of the Cotton Exchange at Cotton Green in 1844. The Causeway was widened and strengthened in 1861 and again in 1863. It became a separate ward of the Municipality in 1872.
Civil constructions in Colaba did not push out the troops. During this period the Sick Bungalows, now known as INS Ashwin, were built. Work on the
The Prong's lighthouse, at the southern tip of the island, was constructed in 1875. Also in the same year, the eponymous Sassoon Docks were built by David Sassoon on reclaimed land. The BB&CI Railways established their terminus in Colaba. These developments pushed the indigenous kolis to the edges of the island, near the Sassoon Docks and to the west.
The City Improvement Trust undertook what is considered the most successful schemes on the western foreshore of Colaba, which was completed in 1905.
ii. Old Man’s
A British town ship grew up inside the fort walls even as the Portuguese, in their mainland enclave of Bassein, were fighting for survival against the Marathas. A few wealthy Indian merchants were allowed to build houses inside the fort.
With control assured over
Businesses moved into the Fort area, displacing residents. More of
The Inner City: The congested inner city, just north of the old Fort walls is one of the oldest parts of
(For example, the Parsis mainly settled in Chandanwadi, near the Hormusji Wadia fire temple, the Dady Sett Agiary and Albless Baug. The Catholics lived in Cavel and Khotachi Wadi in Girgaum. Marathi brahmins and Prabhus preferred to settle on Girgaum Road, near the Portuguese
Kamathipura, now synonymous with the phrase `red-light district', was originally named after the Kamathi workers from Andhra who came to the city from 1795, and settled in the flat areas which were rendered livable by the construction of the Hornby Vellard. The Konkanis, Kathiwadis, Kutchis and other Gujarati people, fleeing from the droughts of the 17th and 18th centuries, settled in Thakurdwar and Pydhonie.)
90,000 square yards of land were reclaimed on the western
iii. Mazgaon: The 1st Portuguese settlers in Mazagaon were the Jesuits. They ceded the island to the British in 1665. From 1672 to 1690, Mazagaon was forcibly occupied by the Sidis of Janjira, an admiral in the Mughal navy. They were driven away by Rustomji Dorabjee (son of the 1st Parsee to arrive in Mumbai). He accomplished this by organizing the fishermen in ‘Dongri’ into a fleet. He was given the title ‘Patel’ after this feat.
After the end of the 17th Century, after the reclamation of ‘Umerkhadi’ Mazgaon became an outlying suburb of Mumbai and a fashionable place to live too. Other bungalows and plantations also grew up in Mazagaon as the British and the more affluent Indians moved out of the crowded fort. It once had the glamour like that of today’s Malabar Hill.
When the Esplanade was cleared in the Fort area, the armoury moved from
In the twentieth century, Mazagaon has become a working class area, as the neighbouring ‘Byculla” became a fasionable suburb for people to move in. There is a large Catholic population still living here, although the Muslim population of neighbouring Umarkhadi and Mandvi has spread northward. With the formation of Docks, Mazagaon was left landlocked, and the fumes from the developing mills drove the last money out of this area.
iv. Mahim: Mazgoan, Mahim, Worli and Parel were inhabited largely by the Indians, while Malabar Hill, except for the Parsis’
At Malabar hill, the highest point in
The first European to build a bungalow here was Montstuart Elphinstone, during the period of his Governorship. After this, in the boom period of the 1860's and 1870's many Englishmen built houses here, and the area became the posh locality which it still remains.
v. Parel and Worli: The 1st major work of reclamation was the construction of a wall across the Great Breach between Mahalaxmi and Worli. It was given a more finished form with the construction of Hornby Vellard in 1784. This significant achievement made possible the filling in of the low-lying land or Flats in the central part of the island, which came in time to constitute the northern extension of the Indian town.
There was no real reclamation which ever took place under the Portuguese or any of the preceding rulers. In fact the condition of the seven islands was so bad that the British Ministers ridiculed the islands as a waste or a bad bargain received from the Portuguese as a dowry.
It was under the British that the actual development of the city took place. Reclamation was undertaken by different companies. We also found that the reclamation orders were passed by the government of
i. Elphinstone Land Reclamation Company:
The Vellard made possible the reclamation of the central portion of the island; land north of west Parel and south of Worli. But the real moulding of the islands into one large mass began in 1836, with the founding of
The Mody Bay Reclamations led to the formation of the land site for the GIPR station. The total area reclaimed amounted to 84 acres and cost about 30 lakhs. In 1858 the Elphinstone Company commenced operations by reclaiming about 22 acres of sea – ground and building godowns for merchandise and a cotton press. By 1871 it deposited 7 mn cubic yards of material and laid out a land and dock estate. The land estate contained acres of building plots, roads and drains etc. The whole area operated upon by the Elphinstone Company was 386 acres, comprising 276 acres of land, 63 acres of basin, and 45 acres of old Bandara absorbed into the scheme.
ii. Back Bay Reclamations Company: The 3rd phase of Reclamations was the most controversial of the projects, the one launched by the Back Bay Reclamation Company which came into being in 1863. The following year it received the Government of India’s sanction to reclaim 1500 acres of the foreshore by dumping earth on the shore. When the Asiatic Banking Corporation, which held Rs. 90 lakhs of this company’s money, crashed, the reclamation work came to an abrupt end. Fortunately, it had by then reclaimed a precious strip of land west of
The Back Bay Reclamation Company eclipsed the other companies of this epoch in the magnitude of their project, which contemplated the entire reclamation of
iii. Port Trust: It was set up in 1873 and it exerted itself energetically to hasten the process. The reclamation carried to completion by the Trust during the first 30 years of its existence comprised 167 acres of foreshore land from Sewree Bunder in the north to Apollo Reclamation and the Colaba Bunder in the south.
In 1908 the Trust embarked on the Great Mazgoan – Sewree Reclamation scheme, which was completed in 1912 and added 583 acres to the area of
Large scale reclamation was carried out by the Port Trust since its formation in 1873 which had led to the development of the Sewri Bhandar, Frere Estate, Custom Bandar, Mazgoan Estate, Elphinstone Estate, Mody Bay Estate, Custom Bandar, Wellington Bandar, Apollo Bandar, Apollo Reclamation and the Colaba Bandars.
iv. Public Works Department: On the collapsing of the Back Bay Reclamation company, the Public Works Department stepped in, committees and schemes proliferated, feeding on and in turn fed by controversy. The extent of the reclamation originally undertaken was 20 acres, to which was subsequently added 11 acres required by the B. B. and C. I. Railway Company. By 1868-69 the scheme had been completed at a cost of about 14 ½ lakhs and comprised among the other things a large basin 700 feet in length which has since been filled up to permit of the great buildings which now characterizes the area. As far as 1888, the Bombay Works department considered the possibility of reclaiming
Interestingly, for the 1st time it was proposed to reclaim by dredging from the harbour and pumping the soil through the pipes laid across the city. In 1906 the PWD drew up a revised scheme for reclaiming 973 acres from Back Bay and 121 acres from the
The tidal flats thus enclosed were divided into 8 compartments or blocks which were to be reclaimed by filling. The scheme was actually taken in hand in 1920 and was abandoned after 1926 of the 8 blocks 1 2, 0 and part of 7 were reclaimed. (Blocks 7 & 8 were later transferred to the Defence Department.)
v. The City Improvement Trust: Founded in 1870, oversaw massive expansion of the waterfront. The Bombay Municipal Corporation was formed to govern infrastructure in 1865. In 1906, the population had reached the 1m mark. Authorities responded by founding an agency, the City Improvement Trust, charged with developing new suburbs and road and transport networks.
For the long term implementation of the proposed improvement, the Bombay City Improvement Trust was constituted on
The Trust was thus constituted a statutory authority with specific financial support by the government and the Municipal Corporation. In addition, the Trust had exceptional provisions in its structure to ensure speedy procedures, mandatory financial allocations for schemes formulated and mandatory time for buildings to be commenced in its schemes. The Trust’s activities reveal that the projects were executed effectively and had long term sustaining impact on the development of
The contribution of the Trust can be divided into three Major areas of work.
1. The improvement of area within the inner city which were either over-congested or unsanitary.
2. The creation of new streets for the purposes of both improving ventilation as well as communication connections between different parts of the city.
3. The development of available land within the city as well as the creation of new land in and around the city via reclamation.
Areas and schemes undertaken by them were Nagpada scheme, Mandvi-Koliwada improvement Scheme, Agripada Scheme, Nowroji Hill decongesting, Dongri hill quarried down.
Apart from them, improvement projects of
It also completed the Dadar-Matunga and Sion-Wadala schemes in north Bombay, as well as the Dadar-Matunga estate (6 miles from Crawford Market), Hornby Estate, Worli scheme (completed in 1922).
In 1933, the trust became a part of the Municipal Corporation. As the Corporation had a wide range of functions, the improvement trust’s primary focus of city improvement blurred. And with the loss of the Improvement Trust vanished the effectiveness, both in terms of infrastructure provision as well as built form that was beginning to flourish in
vi. Abondoned works: The abandoned scheme covered an area of 1144 acres between Colaba and the Parsi Gymkhana at Marine Lines. The reclamations of blocks 3 (Cuffe Parade) and 5 (Nariman Point) was resumed ion 1961 by the Municipal Corporation.
b) Importance of Reclamation: The importance of reclamations to urban Mumbai cannot be underscored. Over 40% of the city of
Reclamations have not only radically altered the contours of the urban topography and lie at the root of the urban blight situation but have also contributed to the changes in configuration, underwater topography and water circulation in the harbour and its bay.
a) Internet Sources:
b) Books and Professional Phd Papers:
1) Gazzetters of
2) The City of
3) The City of
4) The Indian year Book and Who’s who 1935-6, by the Times of India Press,
5) Publications of Bombay Local history Seminars.
6) The Reclamation in Historical Perspective: by Dr. Mariam Dosal
7) Reclamations of