Not Your Typical Slum
By David Kattenburg
Dharavi is a 200 hectare teardrop of land in the heart of Mumbai, home to almost a million people. This is where India’s — and the world’s — largest city began, as a cluster of mud islands. Generations of settlement, by waves of migrants from throughout India, have turned Dharavi into the “largest slum in Asia.” Listen here:
But Dharavi is not your typical slum. The people of Dharavi — really, a collection of communities sandwiched between Mumbai’s two rail lines — are highly productive. Most of Mumbai’s solid waste is recycled here, and Dharavi is famous for its leatherwork, pottery and other cottage industries. Its narrow streets are packed with shops of all kinds.
Still, Dharavi services are poor, and there’s plenty of squalor. The Indian government’s Slum Rehabilitation Authority has come up with improvement/redevelopment plans over the years. Now, with real estate values sky-high in Mumbai, and a major shopping district on the drawing boards just north of Dharavi, a multi-billion dollar redevelopment plan is now in the works – the brainchild of American-trained architect Mukesh Mehta – featuring highrises, shopping centers and prime office space.
Trouble is, Dharavi residents are not being consulted. The idea is to divide Dharavi into five sectors. People who’ve lived in Dharavi since 1995 will be entitled to 225 square feet (in a high-rise) – nowhere near enough for Dharavi’s ground-level cottage industries, which the Sector Redevelopment Plan may leave out in the cold.