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Dharavi- A slum beyond comparison

Updated on November 27, 2010
Improper disposal of waste-Dharavi
Improper disposal of waste-Dharavi
Waterway -Mithi river choked with improper garbage disposal
Waterway -Mithi river choked with improper garbage disposal

Dharavi,  an integral part of the city of Mumbai is the largest slum of Asia in terms of population density. It is spread over an area of 175 hectares (0.67 sq. miles) with an estimated population of 6 lac. The first settlers in Dharavi came over 300 years ago, and turned this marshland into liveable land; today Dharavi is home to over 500,000 people of all religions, castes and economic strata, not just the 'poor'.

An island in the 18th century, the present-day Dharavi was a mangrove swamp in the late 19th century and a home to the fisher community. It was the Hornby Vellard project started in 1782 that aimed to merge all the seven islands of Mumbai into a single amalgamated mass. Over time the fisher folk gave a way to migrants from Gujarat,U.P. Tamil Nadu to inhabit the area and in 1924, Dharavi’s first school and Mumbai's first Tamil School was established.

Dharavi has traditional textile and pottery industries, and a large recycling industry. With an estimated 15000 single-room factories, Dharavi exports goods around the world.Its total turnover is estimated to be 500-650 million US dollars annually. Residents of Dharavi suffer severe problems with public health,due to scarcity of water supply as well as toilets along with the problem of floods in the rains. Poor sanitary conditions and lack of hygiene are evident when Dharavi houses only one toilet per 1440 residents.

Dharavi bustles with economic and industrial activity with 4,902 production facilities- 1,036 in textiles, 932 in pottery, 567 in the leather, 722 in recycling and scrap metal, 498 in embroidery and 152 in food. Furthermore, there are 111 restaurants and several thousand boutiques in Dharavi.

Despite its dynamic industrial and economic activity, the work conditions in the informal sector of Dharavi are deplorable. Potters and their families live and work surrounded by heat and toxic smoke emanating from their ovens, while leather, textile and food workers spend up to 15 hours a day in dark rooms with insufficient ventilation. Salaries are very low and competition between old and new migrants is constantly driving the cost of labor down.

Poverty, crime and an industry proliferating in imitation goods are the mantra of dynamic slum industry and Dharavi is no exception.

Most residents of Dharavi do not own the land, but yet they have appropriated their homes and businesses. Many houses have neither electricity nor running water.

The infrastructure is poor, very few residents have toilets in their homes with open sewerage spreading disease and are a health hazard in the monsoon.

Home to thousands of industries, including leather, pottery, textiles, food production and now a major hub of recycling, unfortunately some of these industries pollute the environment and are unsafe for workers.

In need of a miraculous solution Dharavi still breathes life and industrial activity oblivious of a clean environment. Students of Class XI of the Matushri Kashiben Vrajlal Valia International Vidyalaya ventured out on a photo shoot as part of studying the environment marred by human activity as a class project.

The pictures alongside are the Dharavi of today !


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      mohit varma 

      6 years ago

      The Dharavi slums face a lot of problems like noise, water and air pollution, it also has no sewage or drainage systems. Everyday the potters brick kilns send huge black clouds into the air which pollutes the air and makes the cloud black and Sion hospital complains about the heavy black smoke that's making their patients case worse. Children play amongst sewage waste and doctors deal with 4,000 cases a day of diphtheria and typhoid. Next to the open sewers are water pipes, which can crack and take in sewage. Dharavi slum is based around this water pipe built on an old rubbish tip. The people have not planned this settlement and have no legal rights to the land. There are also toxic wastes in the slum including hugely dangerous heavy metals. Dharavi is made up of 12 different neighborhoods and there are no maps or road signs. Those problems exist because those people aren't living on their own property and because it is a poor piece of land, so the government is trying to kick them out so that they can start a new project, this cause many problems and issues to the people such as poverty and hunger.

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      6 years ago

      this srticle shows that india is far behind in the list of developed countries..................

      there are two parts in this city is of the people living in huge flats and njjoying all types of luxuries.... and the other one is of this hardworking people living in dharavi........... trying to earn a proper livelihood..............inspite of their hardwork in recycling the dry waste into useful materials...............

      this is a very good article and this really halped me for preparing my evs project............

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      7 years ago

      Thank you for the information because I really helped me with the school work I was doing

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      check out what happened in Dharavi yesterday

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      working on an assignment about slums

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      The living conditions in Dharavi are so bad becaus e they are ignored. Look at it like this, Mumbai is expanding at an explosive rate and is looking to be an economic rival to China. It's like having a slum just a few miles from New York, or Dublin or any major economic capital. There are currently several private companies who are looking to develop the land that Dharavi is positioned on. The inhabitants of Dharavi are willing to agree to this but they will be packed into tiny apartment blocks. Most families in Dharavi have between 10 and 20 members. It'll be just like the council falt problems in England or Bally Mun, They'll just get torn down again in a few years. Also you're taking away jobs from the people of Dharavi. The "cottage industry" in Dharavi produces 1 billion in revenue for the area every year. Take that away from the people and they have nothing. Sure they live in genuinely terrible conditions but at least they have lively hoods. Its not ideal, but it's all they have. I recommend to anyone wanting to learn about the slums for real to watch "Kevin McCloud's Slumming it". It's a documentary on channel 4.

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      8 years ago

      good informations thanks

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      Scrap Metals 

      9 years ago

      i am actually thinking why they don't used their junks to produce money. i can see scrap metals and other stuffs that can be recycled. maybe the government should conduct some seminars.

    • justom profile image


      9 years ago from 41042

      I have a hard time understanding why India doesn't have a healthier living condition. Seems it's not a money problem so I'm going to guess the folks with all the money just don't care.(which goes against everything I think about India)Thanks for all this info that we here in the U.S never hear about and I sure hope you can turn that situation around! Peace!! Tom


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