Malabar Hill’s Treetop Trail to Replenish Mumbai’s ecosystem

Sakshi Agrawal Apr 09, 2022 0

Mumbai has always been a city of paradoxes – the elite and the pauper, the skyscrapers and the slums, and the concrete jungle and the old natural ecosystem. Growing urbanization in a city already packed to the brim, as well as rising housing and infrastructure demand, are devouring the city’s remaining green spaces. The Malabar Hill Elevated Forest Trail by IMK Architects is an attempt to sustain one of the last remaining natural ecosystems of Mumbai – The Malabar Hill Forest.  The Malabar Hill Forest Trail is an elevated wooden walkway full of twists and turns for people to indulge and experience this natural urban forest. This project presents a pioneering way to resuscitate the degrading urban ecosystems that are victims of unchecked development while maintaining the genetic stock of biodiversity.

The Malabar Hill Forest Trail brings the concept of eco-tourism to the middle of the burnt-out city of Mumbai. Visitors will indulge in an enveloping journey with nature while traversing through this trail. The project is a collective initiative of the Malabar Hill Citizens’ Forum, the Nepeansea Road Citizens’ Forum (NRCF), and IMK Architects, and is supported by the JSW Foundation. It will be funded by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and is slated for completion by the end of 2021.

Location

“A historically popular venue for joggers, athletes, nature lovers, and leisure seekers from the Malabar Hill neighbourhood, the forest today seems to be falling into a state of disrepair and neglect.” The forest is engulfed with temporary and permanent dilapidated structures, including a stairwell, a greenhouse, older steps, trails, fences, outworn guardrails, and so on which increases the threat of encroachment along the eastern edge of the forest.

Because of continuous soil erosion along the steep slopes, the hillock’s subsoil has started to give way. Moreover, the area is increasingly becoming a center of antisocial activities such as liquor brewing and drug consumption, which creates safety concerns. Clearly, the forest and the ecological systems it supports are threatened, and if left unsupervised, they will eventually be completely overrun.

Site Access

“The Malabar Hill Forest Trail thus arises out of the urgent need to preserve and restore the forest’s rich ecosystem, while creating a new, sustainable interface between nature and the city.” The 12-acre green pocket of Malabar Hill Forest houses an abundance of flora and fauna including trees like gulmohar, copperpod, mango, coconut, rain tree, jamun, and jackfruit, and a dozen rare birds including the rose-ringed parakeet, hornbill, coppersmith barbet, magpie-robin, golden oriole, and peafowl. This diverse mix of plants and wildlife creates a recreation spot full of ecological diversity. 

While the new elevated walkway will follow roughly the same path as the two existing trails on the ground level, it will stretch for a total length of 705 metres, taking visitors through the entire forest. “The site will be fenced on the ground level and ingress/egress points will be provided at either end of the trail, connecting it to the two existing, prominent points of access for Malabar Hill: a 192-step stairway from the Babulnath temple in the south and a 100-step picturesque stairway carved into the hill from the Hughes Road bus stop area in the south-west, both of which will be restored as part of the project.” Additionally, a utility block with toilets, ticket booths, and other public amenities will be built at the start of the trail towards the west along Siri Road.

Site Plan
The elevated walkway minimises impact on the forest floor.

The trail is designed to be constructed without destroying a single tree in the forest. The walkway will stand on a series of cylindrical epoxy-coated structural steel columns that can be easily repaired or replaced. In relation to the terrain, column heights will vary from a minimum of 2m to a maximum of 10m. These low-impact pile foundations also make sure that they do not interfere with the existing tree-root systems of the forest. 

“The seemingly simple intervention of elevating the trail will regulate visitor access to the forest on the ground level, as well as minimize the use of concrete on the forest floor.” As a result, the natural flow of water through the hillside and the movement of wildlife in the forest will not be disturbed.   

Local, weathered Sal wood will be used for the walkway deck in order to blend the path into the forest. “It will be supported by steel joists over structural steel beams, which will themselves be supported by the columns. Averaging 1.5m, the width of the deck will increase every 150m to accommodate amenities for visitors: from 1.5m to 3.6m to include seating zones, and to 5.4m to accommodate expansive viewing decks, one of which will feature a glass bottom.” 

In order to minimize light pollution spilling onto the forest floor, warm lighting fixtures will be placed within the Sal wood balustrade. Information panels and small kiosks will be strategically placed along the walk to help first-time visitors and infrequent visitors. The precinct will be monitored by a network of CCTV cameras. Litter bins will be placed at regular intervals to deter littering.

IMK Architects

Website: www.imkarchitects.com

E-mail: info@imkarchitects.com

Contact:  022-4050 6666/ 2497 3630

Design Team: Rahul Kadri, Harsh Vyas, Bhumika Ganjawala, Heena Sheikh, Pramod Shelar

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Seating and information panels are planned along the walk for visitors.

Malabar Hill Forest Trail offers remarkable views of the Arabian Sea as well as Mumbai's skyline

The elevated walkway will be constructed without damaging a single tree.

Location

Site Plan

Site Access

The trail opens up unexplored avenues for bird-watching and recreation in the middle of Mumbai.

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