On paper, Mumbai’s sweeping seafront should be the city’s pride, but the long tetrapod seawall that flanks Marine Drive creates a grey, brutalist counterpoint to the graceful backdrop of Art Deco apartment buildings. Locals love it as a place to meet, parade and promenade, but despite architecture to rival South Beach in Miami, this an area where few tourists linger.
All that may change, however, if government plans to build two brand new beaches for India’s second city get beyond the planning stage. The Maharashtra Maritime Board is currently carrying out detailed surveys for the creation of new sandy beaches – one at Mahim in north Mumbai, and one stretching south from the existing reclaimed beach at Girgaum Chowpatty, at the north end of Marine Drive.
Extending the beach on Marine Drive will involve the construction of a submerged artificial reef offshore in the bay, and the dumping of 1.5 million cubic metres of sand along the seafront, at a cost of over US$37 million. Building a beach that lasts beyond the high tides of the next monsoon will involve detailed calculations of tidal motion, to minimise the amount of sand that gets dragged back out into the Arabian Sea.
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The engineering logistics of creating the new beaches should not be underestimated. Hundreds of tons of concrete tetrapods will need to be removed, and vast quantities of materials will have to be transported to the site by ocean-going barge. And Mumbai gaining a beach may mean somewhere else losing one; the government has yet to reveal exactly where the new sand will come from, but the most likely source is other beaches along the coast north and south of Mumbai.
However, the benefits for both local residents and tourists could be massive, in a city which grants its residents less than one square metre of open space per capita. The reclamation and re-sanding of nearby Girgaum Chowpatty beach has proved a huge success, transforming a polluted and pebbly fishing beach into a broad sweep of sand where locals gather every afternoon to escape the city crush and bask in the cooling sea breezes.
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