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Dharavi- A slum beyond comparison
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 !