Photo Essay: A Walk Along the Mithi River

April 12, 2012 10:07 am by
View Slideshow

At approximately 18 kilometres, it’s not a particularly long river but it is perhaps the one that’s most significant to anyone living in Mumbai. Two national parks—the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and the Mahim Nature Park—sit on its banks. It has several bridges across it including the main airport runway of the city. The Sea Link, which connects South Mumbai to Bandra, stands proudly across the bay into which the river empties itself. Its mouth is flanked by two old forts—those of Mahim and Bandra—staring at each other. And the city’s bustling business district, the Bandra Kurla Complex stands on what were once swamps and mangroves on the banks of the river.

However, it was on July 26, 2005 that many of us stood in neck-deep water and noticed a river that flowed through the heart of our city. On that day, a sudden and unexpected quantity of rain proved too much for the river and the city drainage system to handle leading to unprecedented destruction and loss of life. Following the floods, crores have been spent to clear up the bottlenecks in the river system to avoid a repeat of the incident but life along the heavily populated river continues without much change. The river serves as the drain for the city, its banks a workspace for our recycling industries. All our old gadgets, cars, plastics, metals and rubble end up there, choking the river and polluting its banks.

The Mithi’s main catchment is the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. It is dammed to form the Vihar and Powai lakes (its birthplace is the overflow from Vihar lake). Its fall from the Park to the bowels of the city takes place over just a few metres. It enters the city close to Powai lake at a place called Filterpada, named after the filtration plant that diverts the river’s water for our use. From there on, the water that flows into the river most of the year is what flows out from the sewers of our homes, slums and industries, giving it its characteristic black colour. If all of us were to disappear from this city, it would probably only take just one monsoon to return the Mithi to its original pristine form.