Mumbai (Bombay) is India’s most populous city; over 18 million people live and work in its wider metropolitan region, tightly packed on a thin stretch of land between the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Mumbai. Built on seven small islands progressively linked by land reclaimed from the sea, Mumbai’s growth has, until recently, been constrained by its physical geography. The city has grown along corridors created by an extensive suburban railway, though residential development often consists of slum settlements crowding dangerously close to the tracks.

The population increased tenfold last century, but sustained immigration and a high birth rate is set to produce a 20% growth in the next decade. More than half the city’s population lives in slums (a figure roughly equivalent to the population of London). Rapid urbanisation has produced poverty, poor health and employment instability. Lack of investment in transport, sanitation and housing means that Mumbai is fast approaching breaking point. Solutions to such major urban issues are needed urgently. However, Mumbai is currently controlled by the state of Maharashtra and Indian central government, and as such suffers from a decision-making system that lacks the knowledge and power to implement changes sensitive to local needs.