A Walk Through Dharavi Slum, Mumbai

A Walk Through Dharavi Slum, Mumbai

in the centre of Mumbai and often referred to as the
city’s heart, Dharavi is unique among slums. Indians have been
voluntarily moving there from rural villages for decades, hoping to
build a better life by working in one of its many successful
industries. Through recycling programmes, tanning, textiles and
pottery, it’s estimated that Dharavi contributes between 600
million and a billion dollars to Mumbai’s economy each year. This
entrepreneurial spirit draws people to the slum, along with the
cheap cost of living; despite Mumbai being one of the most
expensive cities in India, Dharavi provides housing with rent as
low as 500 rupees per month (about £5).

Walking through the slum is a journey through a maze of narrow
alleys and shanties with corrugated roofs packed tightly on top of
and beside each other. The width of the passageways is far too
small, giving rise to echoing sounds; the chatter of women, the
buzz of sewing machines, the pitter-patter of bare feet. Wet
clothes hang over electrical cords that snake, dip and twist and a
dense fog sits in the air as potters remove clay pots from homemade
kilns. About 1.5 million people live in this square mile; that’s
18,000 per acre, with eight or so often sharing one small room.

Situated in the middle of Mumbai’s financial district, Dharavi’s
location makes it a hot topic in terms of real estate. Over the
years, many regeneration plans have been proposed, sparking serious
debate. Many have concerns that any redevelopment would be too
small to house the amount of people living in the area, while
others argue others argue that the local community spirit would be
extinguished. It is this spirit that outshines the impoverished
living conditions and drives the residents towards a better life
with unbridled determination.

@laurenalliestewart | www.laurenalliestewart.com

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City Guide: Mumbai, India