dharavi slum mumbai

Mumbai is a city full of contrast: luxury passes poverty and modern skyscrapers are close neighbors with shabby slums. All in all, Mumbai is a home to over 23 million of people and almost half of them lives in one of two thousand local slums. The biggest one is Dharavi – a slum, where movie Slumdog millionaire was directed. And this is the slum I decided to visit.



Slum Dharavi 

Dharavi is the second biggest slum in Asia. It was founded in 1840 and there is over 1.2 million people living here on 2 square kilometers. Which means that the population density here is 600 thousand people for a square kilometer. This slum is made by 200 thousand tiny houses placed closely together. Half of these have only one room, 10 square meters big and the other luckier half has more than one room but still fits into 25 square meters. Government is trying to change this, reduce the number of slums and smooth out the huge contrast of the city by offering locals to move into apartments in skyscrapers that are just beside these slums. However, locals are not excited about this offer and decline it, mostly because these apartments are not big enough for a family of five and also because they would lose their livelihood.

Slum is divided into several parts: industrial district and residential district. These are separated by a river which is more of a still black gutter that flows without any filtration straight into the sea.

dhobi ghat mumbai



Industrial district of Dharavi

There are around ten thousand manufactories in Dharavi and they turn-over approximately 665 million dollars. Workers here are not only people from the slum but from all over India. They work in this highly dangerous environment for 8 months a year, with a monthly pay of 100 USD and then with their slightly damaged health return to their families during monsoon season. The biggest trade in Dharavi however, would be the recycling industry. Poorest of Indians build their livelihood in Mumbai by picking empty plastic wrappers and bottles and sell them for few rupees to buyers, that take them in large quantities to Dharavi. This plastic is then processed by workers that crush it, wash it, dry it on the rooftops and then store it in bags. Dharavi is also the second biggest manufacturer of leather products. Local factories are even supplying brand companies abroad that only add their logos to these products. Economy in slum really does work: doesn’t matter if you need to melt some aluminum or get your haircut – both can be done just few steps away of each other.

dharavi slum mumbai



Residential district of Dharavi

On the other side of a black bubbly gutter is residential side of the slum. People here live in Muslim and Hindu quarters, which were formed after religious troubles in 1992. Even here are some manufactories, however these are not that harmful to health, so you can find bakeries, barber shops, textile factories and other retail here. It is very busy in these narrow streets, there is a lot of people running, others are taking bath and there are goats everywhere. Water is valuable here, it is led by narrow pipes and only flows from 160 taps. Because it is only available for 3-4 hours a day, locals have to stock up their water in barrels. There are only 700 public toilets in Dharavi which means that 1500 people share the same toilet. At least electricity is available all day and locals can have satellites on their roofs. Streets here are often so narrow that you can barely walk through and there is a sewer right underneath your feet. If you get a chance to glimpse a street with more space, it is often covered in rubbish. Junkyards are illegal and dangerous in slums, especially for small children because they can be a source of horrible diseases. And right behind this pile of rubbish you can see brand new skyscrapers that seem like from another world...



More about my travels to India, you can read in the travelogue



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