Mumbai is essentially a peninsula jutting into the Arabian Sea. Since the 1980s, when a little over eight million called it home, the city’s population has more than doubled. That’s led to rapid urbanisation of the surrounding areas, as well as encroachment of the mangroves on the city’s edges.

A close examination of mangroves around the Thane (the finger of water on the right) and Malad creeks (the green patch on the left) reveal how the city has expanded. Mangrove forests, found at the intersection of land and sea, are natural and vital flood barriers, especially as storms become more erratic and severe due to climate change.

More proof of their destruction is available further north of Mumbai, where the area around the Manori creek (on the left) has been massively encroached upon. Mangroves at the mouth of the Desai Khadi river (bottom, right), too, have met with a similar fate, with areas being extensively built upon in the last 30 years.

Then, there’s the Mithi river, the thread of blue at the centre of the image, right under the X-shaped runways of the Mumbai airport. It originates in the hills around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and travels nearly 18 kilometres to drain into the sea. Mithi is Mumbai’s natural storm drain, particularly during heavy rains. Over the years, though, it has become a veritable sewer, choked with domestic and industrial waste. The wetlands along the river (immediately south of the airport), too, have disappeared since the late 1980s.

It’s a story of maximum destruction in the Maximum City.

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