2006 Mumbai sweet seawater incident

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The 2006 Mumbai "sweet" seawater incident was a strange phenomenon during which residents of Mumbai claimed that the water at Mahim Creek[1] had suddenly turned sweet. Within hours, residents of Gujarat claimed that seawater at Teethal beach had turned sweet as well. This caused a mass hysteria among people who started coming in large numbers to drink the sea water.


In the aftermath of the incidents, local authorities feared the possibility of a severe outbreak of water-borne diseases, such as gastroenteritis. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had warned people not to drink the water,[2] but despite this many people had collected it in bottles, even as plastic and rubbish had drifted by on the current. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai had ordered a bacteriological report into the "sweet" water, but suspected that "contamination in the water might have been reduced due to the waters from Mithi river flowing into the mouth of Mahim Bay".[3]

Possible explanations[edit]

Geologists at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay offered the explanation that water turning sweet is a natural phenomenon. Continuous rainfall over the preceding few days had caused a large pool of fresh water to accrue in an underground rock formation near to the coast, which then discharged into the sea as a large "plume" as fractures in the rocks widened. Because of the differences in density, the discharged fresh water floated on top of the salt water of the sea and spread along the coast. Over time, the two would mix to become normal sea water once more.[4]

According to Valsad District Collector D Rawal the reason for the water in Gujarat tasting less salty than usual was that because of the monsoon, two rivers Auranga and Banki were in spate and were flowing into the sea in the region.[5][6][7][8][9]

Similar natural phenomenon is also observed in the case of halocline.

Timeline of events[edit]

  • 18 August 8 p.m.: Devotees head to Mahim Creek amid rumors that the seawater is less salty than usual. Many attribute the phenomenon to divine intervention, particularly because the "miracle" is taking place at the shrine of Haji Maqdoom Baba.
  • 19 August, Midnight: Thousands begin to bottle and drink the water despite desperate pleas by political leaders and health officials who state that the water could be polluted by toxins.
  • 19 August 1 a.m.: Police arrive as more devotees arrive to experience the "miracle".
  • 19 August, 10:30 a.m.: The tide turns and people admit that the water is "less sweet".
  • 19 August 2 p.m.: The phenomenon ends as people acknowledge that the water has turned salty again.


  1. ^ "Hundreds drink 'sweet seawater'". BBC News. 19 August 2006.
  2. ^ "People taste "sweet" sea water in Mumbai". The Times of India. 19 August 2006. Archived from the original on 18 July 2012.
  3. ^ "Authorities fear "sweet" water could cause diseases". The Hindu. Mumbai. 20 August 2006. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007.
  4. ^ "IIT geologists say Mahim miracle a natural phenomenon". The Hindu. 20 August 2006. Archived from the original on 20 October 2007.
  5. ^ Rathin Das (19 August 2006). "Sweet water miracle in Gujarat too". Hindustan Times. Ahmedabad. Archived from the original on 7 March 2007.
  6. ^ "Hundreds drink 'sweet seawater'". BBC News. 19 August 2006.
  7. ^ "Indian Scientists: 'Sweet' Seawater No Miracle; Tests Show Pollution, Sewage". underwatertimes.com. 22 August 2006.
  8. ^ "Mahim seawater turns 'sweet'!". dna. 19 August 2006.
  9. ^ "No miracle, water turns sweet during monsoon". indianexpress.com. 20 August 2006.

External links[edit]