How the Mumbai Climate Action Plan can be made better

A citizen’s perspective on the Mumbai Climate Action Plan (MCAP)

Developmental projects in Mumbai are causing extreme water logging
Rough sea and tidal waves lashing Mumbai’s coast Pic: Pratik Chorge

On 27th August 2021, Minister for Environment and Tourism (Govt of Maharashtra), Aditya Thackeray, launched the first-ever climate action plan in Mumbai. Titled Mumbai’s Climate Action Plan (MCAP) it has been drafted by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) with technical support from WRI India, involved as a knowledge partner.

“Mumbai is one of the high-risk cities to the worst impacts of climate change. There is a need to re-think the ways development is carried out in the current climate change scenario. Coordinated efforts for data monitoring and management, will help us make quick and informed decisions, ensuring the safety of those most vulnerable in our city – Mumbai’s approach during the pandemic has been exactly this.” Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) commissioner, Iqbal Singh Chahal said, speaking an the event.

The MCAP focuses on six key areas to build sector specific strategies for mitigation and adaptation: Sustainable Waste Management, Urban greening & biodiversity, Urban flooding & water resource management, Energy & buildings, Air quality and Sustainable Mobility. This comes days after the release of the 6th IPCC report based on physical science, ringing warning bells for several coastal cities including Mumbai.

Scientists assert that global warming will soon breach the threshold of 1.5°C along with rapidly melting ice caps and rising sea levels. The BMC’s plan now would be to tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and consumption patterns by sectors. The BMC in collaboration with WRI India is spending the next few months seeking feedback and suggestions. 


Read more: How can Mumbai get more public spaces?


Suggestions for the six focus areas of the MCAP

Sustainable Waste Management

According to an Environment Status Report (ESR) released by the BMC for 2019-20, of the total 6,500-6,800 metric tonnes of garbage generated in Mumbai, almost 73 per cent is organic food waste.

In this context, the BMC should draft and implement stronger and effective policies for composting organic waste wherever possible, which should include the segregation of wet waste from dry waste and composting organic food waste as mandatory practices. NGOs concerned with waste management could greatly influence the implementation of these. Composting units should be given clearances by the BMC on a priority basis and corporators and ward level officials should monitor this process and be held accountable for any mismanagement. Additionally, open garbage bins are wreaking havoc in the city and should ideally be shut. Uncovered nullahs should be tended to to avoid accumulation of more waste.

More importantly, the BMC should avoid waste-to-energy plants. They generate little energy through high operational costs. Heavy construction in the city is also responsible for toxic waste in water bodies and in the air, since industrial waste is the 2nd largest contributor to air pollution in Mumbai.

Urban greening & biodiversity 

trees cut for concreting work for a cycling track besides the Powai Lake
Tree felling done near the Powai lake for the cycling track Photo: Sushant Bali

The overall green cover in  Mumbai has reduced significantly over the last two decades and the city has some of the lowest per capita green space ratios in India. The MCAP focuses on a scientific approach to increasing the city’s green cover and ensuring inclusive access to green open spaces.

The BMC should focus on the conservation and restoration of green spaces through the plantations of more flora and fauna, especially native species, and it should be made mandatory for every ward/block to have at least 25% of its total area as green. Doubly important is the protection, restoration and preservation of the city’s mangroves. Their maintenance could prevent extreme flooding, revive the city’s water bodies, and save several livelihoods.

Cut and paste culture – where trees are uprooted and relocated elsewhere –  should stop since most trees don’t survive this kind of displacement. 

Urban flooding and water resource management

Flooding is one of the major problems that Mumbai tackles every year. Heavy rainfall coupled with high tides lead to severe water logging in many parts of the city. Decades old drainage systems are unmaintained and massive reclamation adds more fuel to the fire.

The situation of water bodies in Mumbai is characterised by pollution, contamination, destruction of the catchment areas and encroachments by developmental projects. Rivers like Mithi, Oshiwara, Dahisar, if left at their present conditions, would ultimately cease to be.

Currently, large chunks of untreated sewage is discharged in the creeks, rivers and sea. On August 6th, booms (temporary floating barriers) were installed at the Mithi river, to prevent and collect floating garbage. The machinery also segregates waste and transfers it through a conveyor belt for recycling. This technology, brought from Finland, is a step in the right direction for the city to combat its sewage problem. Ultimately, it should be installed across Mumbai.

Energy & Buildings 

The BMC through MCAP should focus on transitions from fossil fuel-driven systems to clean and renewable energy resources like solar and Wind. It should be made mandatory for residential societies and industrial complexes to switch to clean & renewable energy sources to meet at least 25% of their energy and electricity requirements.
The authorities should frame policies to regulate the real estate sector, by introducing rules pertaining to quality of structures, amount of buildings, having climate and environment friendly structures, and ensuring construction that adheres to the norms in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) 2006. Glass faced buildings trap more heat because of their mirroring effect and should be banned.

Air Quality and Sustainable mobility

Mumbai has been ranked as the fourth-most polluted megacity in the world in 2016 by the global air pollution database of the World Health Organization (WHO) published in 2018.

Emissions from motor vehicles in the city causing air pollution
Vehicular emissions in the city could be causing air pollution. Pic: Satyabrata Tripathy

It is losing the advantage of being a coastal city and having a better Air Quality Index (AQI) due to the sea breeze. Mumbai’s large population directly adds to its vehicular emissions, since the city has at least 3.86 crore vehicles, according to Maharashtra’s Economic Survey Report 2019-20. 

For the first time in the history of Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking is facing a huge shortage of buses. Once considered the pride of Mumbai and Asia’s best bus service, and often compared with London, the BEST buses are now unmaintained. Over1,200 buses have been scrapped during the pandemic.

The current BEST-owned fleet stands at 2,010 buses. This includes around 800 Ashok Leyland JNNURM buses, around 600 Tata CNG buses, some Ashok Leyland CNG midi buses, 25 Tata AC Hybrid buses, around 180 Tata Diesel buses, 6 Olectra non-AC Electric buses and 45 Double Deckers. 

Sustainable mobility and air quality are intersectional. By providing affordable, efficient and comfortable means of public transport, the number of private vehicles contributing to GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions can be brought down effectively, and so, the BMC needs to focus on increasing and improving the BEST bus services. Live bus tracking and bus availability should be displayed on the app, more and more buses should be procured and car owners should be charged with pollution CESS, which is a tax levied by the state for prevention and control of pollution.

You can send your suggestions and feedback for the MCAP on this link: https://mcap.mcgm.gov.in/talk-to-us/

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About Tanmay Shinde 1 Article
Tanmay is a climate and environmental activist. He is part of Save Aarey, Fridays for Future India and Save Our Coast Mumbai collectives.