Mumbai at one point of time had many tanks within the city which were a major source of water for drinking and other purposes for the inhabitants. Some of them were Dhobi Talao, Bhuleshwar, Cowasji Patel Tank, Khara Talao, Two Tanks, Gowalia Tank, Babula Tank, Parel Tank, Mumba Devi Tank, Mazgaon Tank, Bandra Tank, Banganga. With passage of time, most of these tanks were filled up and presently only Bandra and Banganga remain intact. The oldest tank was the Cowasjee Patel Tank built in 1775. A total of ten tanks were built between the 18th and 19th century. The tanks were named after philanthropic citizens who donated money to fund the building of these tanks so that the citizens of the city would get a fresh source of drinking water. The tanks were mostly constructed in the congested areas and their waters were prone to pollution and contamination. The scarcity of water was acutely felt in Bombay in those days and it was left to the mercy of the monsoon rains from July to September each year to bring relief to the citizens. According to the Bombay City Gazetteer published in 1909, the water-level in these tanks were often very low and had to be replenished by sinking new wells all over Bombay. In 1846, the city faced an acute water shortage following which Framji Cowasji sank three wells in its gardens to provide water by steam machinery. Later in 1856, the city once again faced a severe drought, and an edict was set out relocating all city cattle to the suburb of Mahim, which was the periphery of the city at that time. Thousands would gather daily around the tank at the Esplanade to collect water, while the government brought water in drums from far off distances to empty into wells at Bori Bunder, Chinch Bunder and Dongri areas. After regular piped water supply was established to the city thanks to the Vihar and Tulsi lakes around 1860, the tanks were declared redundant and soon became a breeding ground for mosquito and consequently were filled in.
The Municipality,from 1866 onwards; towards the provision of new land, started filling up old tanks and quarries. Among these were a tank at Upper Colaba near Pilot Bandar, filled in 1866, four Foras tanks near the DeLisle and Arthur roads were filled in 1884, the Sankli tank at Haines road got filled in 1893, the Gilder street tank was filled in 1905, and the Matharpakhadi tank, Babula tank, Khara tank, Naigaum tank and Nanglia tank filled in 1907.
1. Cowasjee Framjee Tank: Popularly known as the Dhobi Talao, was a natural depression, but later was defined by walls in 1831 by Cowasjee Framjee at the northern end of the esplanade for public use in the locality. In place of the tank, an imposing building - Cowasjee Framjee Institute was built. 2. Babula Tank: Located in Byculla near the Old Sailor’s Home and in the vicinity of Sir J J Hospital and Grand medical College was built in 1849. Several springs of salt water seeped into the tank subsequently. 3. Two Tanks: Popularly known as Do Tanki, was in the Duncan road area built before 1823. This was late connected to C.P. tank through aquaduct. 4. Banganga Tank: Located within the historic temple precinct of Walkeshwar, received natural flow of water from Malabar hill. Considered very holy, this still existing tank has a mythological and historical significance, dating back to Shilahar period 9 to 12 century AD. The steps along the periphery were constructed in the the late 19 century. 5. Gowalia Tank: Located under the existing August Kranti Maidan, had a natural flow of water from Cumballa hill. It served as fresh water feed stock for both, humans and cattle. 6. Mumbadevi Tank: Located near the Mumbadevi Temple in Bhuleshwar, it was a natural water body before the masonry steps were constructed defining its edges. 7. Cowasji Patel Tank: More known as C.P. Tank, was a natural water body located near Kalbadevi/Girgaon area. It was rejuvenated by Cowasji Patel in 1775. In 1846 when it was very short of water, Framjee Cowasjee purchased the Mugbhat oarts and constructed three large wells from which the earlier tank was replenished with the help of steam machines. 8. Mahalaxmi Tank: Located near the low level entrance to the temple, built by Dadaji Dhakjee, it had very elegant design of steps to enter the tank. It is reclaimed to be used for multipurpose activities like fairs and marriages. 9. Bhatia Bhagirathi Tank: Located in a temple complex in Bhuleshwar, it was used for ablution by the mourners. Today there is an RCC slab above it and has a restricted entry. 10. Guilder Tank: Located near the Grant Road railway station near the Municipal school is a play ground at present. 11. Nardulla Tank: Located in Prabhadevi and Siddhivinayak Mandir, is a designated recreational garden at present.
For Further Reading:
Gazetteer of Bombay Town and Island, 1909