In 1991, in conjunction with India’s liberalizing economic reforms that year,
the chief minister of Maharashtra announced a plan to transform the city of
Bombay into a global financial ser vice center modeled on Singapore— and
to let the market do much of the work. Animated by an international policy
discourse recommending market solutions to all manner of po litical, social,
and material conflict, a co alition of Bombay’s planners, politicians, landown-
ers, and business elites put markets to work in arbitrating long- standing po liti-
cal conflicts over access to urban land and resources— conflicts on which a
generation of urban development planning had faltered. Institutionalizing a
new set of regulatory instruments and market mechanisms, liberalization- era
policymakers enlisted private- sector participation in the city’s transformation.
The years since have seen Mumbai gripped by a fever of construction, de moli-
tion, and redevelopment: working- class neighborhoods and older built forms
are making way for shiny new malls, office towers, mega- infrastructure proj-
ects, and luxurious residential compounds, while sprawling townships of low-
income housing sprout up along the urban periphery.
Yet the dazzling de cades of urban development and roaring economic
growth have not been without cost: Mumbai’s transformation has presided
over the steady deterioration— and sometimes spectacular breakdown—of the
city’s water infrastructures.1 Water troubles plague not only the more than
Embedded Infrastructures
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