Life in an Underwater Metro: Sea-facing Flats for Every Mumbaikar, Uber Boats With Surge Pricing by 2050


Life in an Underwater Metro: Sea-facing Flats for Every Mumbaikar, Uber Boats With Surge Pricing by 2050

Illustration: Siddhakanksha Mishra

In a few decades, a new study has found, the Arabian Sea will perform its very own ghar wapsi and reclaim most of Mumbai back into its fold — the Gateway of India, Colaba Causeway, Victoria Terminus, Raju Dosa, his rival Manju Dosa, almost every single thing we know and love is expected to be under water by the year 2050. An event of this magnitude will no doubt make our current biggest problems (H Pylori, potholes, to name a few) seem as inconvenient as a mosquito in a three-storey mansion. You thought your mould was bad now? Wait until you literally live in the sea. But obviously, there’s no need to panic. This study is bound to be further studied by scientists who understand the climate and suggest measures to avoid such a catastrophe. The government is also bound to make its contribution to helping avoid the crisis — like time travelling to 1970s and not reclaiming so much land from the sea in the first place.

Meanwhile, it’s very likely that the people of Mumbai will continue to live on in their hometown — starting their new lives as fish — completely oblivious to the fact that residents of other cities have access to dry land. The BMC will point out in a planted op-ed that people actually pay money to go to Venice and “see water only dude”, but all Mumbaikars do is complain. The waterlogging that we’ve been witnessing every monsoon, it’ll say, was nothing but preparing us for the future.  And we’ll let out a tiny whimper, say “chalta hai”, and swim 20 kilometres to work, holding on to a rope that the local NGO was kind enough to donate for support. Because Uber Boats are definitely going to charge us a surge price.  

The abstract “spirit of the city” is widely considered to be one of the best qualities of the financial capital. It makes traffic jams look like flowering gardens in the spring, 0BHKs look like actual houses, and groups of three cats look like the Savannah. Assuming this spirit continues unhindered for the next few decades, chances are the whole flood situation will be seen as a way of life, a minor inconvenience, and life will go on as planned. 

There are bound to be a few benefits, and Mumbaikars are nothing if not optimistic. For one, property rates are likely to fall at least slightly once everything is under water. So expect the ₹2 crore flat in Kanjurmarg to now cost ₹1.9 crore. Builders can’t really do much in a swamp, apart from promise the best “sea view” and “24×7 pool access”. Meanwhile, the people who were once stuck in one-room apartments in the way too-far-off suburbs, who weren’t able to afford a single window in their homes despite having three jobs, will finally have that sea-facing home they dreamed about. 

The waterlogging that Mumbaikars have been witnessing every monsoon, BMC will say, was nothing but preparing us for the future.

This way, the government can take it easy too. What’s the point of announcing massive construction projects and following through. Will we really need the metro or the Aarey forest? By 2030, they could just put a twist to the inevitable, and give us vague promises about Sea Parks and Sea Worlds instead. Did someone say Undersea Tunnel Highway? Very likely… Suspiciously likely even…

According to a New York Times report on the study — that was originally published in the journal Nature Communications — the southern parts of Mumbai may sink, at least once a year, below the projected high tide line, by mid-century. On Twitter, it was explained further with the help of a few maps that show most of the city completely covered in red spots. And, as we all know, red is rarely a good sign on maps.

Luckily the study does mention that it hasn’t taken into account man-made coastal defences, which could prevent the sea from entering our city. That’s a relief. They clearly haven’t seen Juhu beach, or the line of hotels built directly on it, or the hundreds of shops selling plastic toys, or the pani puri-wallah without a dustbin standing in the water. Jokes on you, Arabian sea, we have a ton of man-made structures all over the place. 

But assuming, in the worst case, that those fail to hold up, and the sea does come rushing in, Mumbai will deal with it like the hardworking, fun-loving, liberal, forever-awake city that it is. We’ll grudgingly move into our Kanakia Undersea Paradise, and swim past the “Lokhandwala presents: New Way to Live…(without breathing)” posters, and be content that we have a constant supply of water at least. 

No potholes, no cry.