Dharavi has been noted as being one of the largest and oldest slums in Asia. It is located in the heart of India’s financial capital in Mumbai and can be seen as a combination of neighbourhoods, each with their own unique character, which have been shaped by waves of migrants who came from the four rural corners of India. A world city is a city that acts as a major centre for finance, politics, trade and business. A suburb is a residential area outside a city’s central area. Mumbai is situated in the west of India and next to the Arabian Sea, as in figure 1, with a population of 14,350,000 people spreading over 603 KM2 making it India’s largest city, Dharavi is in the south of Mumbai, as in figure 2, with a population of 600,000 people and spreading over 2 KM2.
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Mumbai is also India’s financial centre with a major port and industrial area, it is home of the ‘Bollywood’ movie industry and a centre of culture all of which makes it the world city that it is today. As well as being a world city, it is residence to ‘the largest slum in Asia’, Dharavi. A world city is a particular city deemed to be an important point in the global economic structure. A reason why Dharavi can be seen as a disgrace and an embarrassing blot on Mumbai’s wish to become a world city is due to its poor surroundings which triggered the comment of ‘an Indian national disgrace’. I personally disagree with the statement as there are plenty of positives to Dharavi however; I can see why this comment was made due to the negativities that Dharavi has brought with it. I will firstly evaluate why people may think Dharavi is a national disgrace then I will evaluate why Dharavi is not a national disgrace and finally I will conclude.
As I previously stated, I can see why people will also agree with the above comment. Dharavi is densely populated with one million people per square mile. This amount of people causes massive overcrowding on transport used to travel to and from work in Mumbai, as you can see in figure 3, leaving those who don’t live in Dharavi experiencing the negatives of having ‘Asia’s biggest slum’ in the city they live in. One of the main problems of Dharavi is its poor sanitation, as you can see in figure 4. Dharavi has an open sewer system which attracts rats and disease as well as the chemicals which travel through sewers. The lack of sanitation is something that would be seen as a bad reflection of Mumbai as a whole making some people views it as an ‘embarrassing blot’ on Mumbai.
Despite this, Dharavi holds thousands of tiny industries within the slum providing jobs for the residents. 80% of the residents in Dharavi work there. The slum also has a very close net community and spirit however, home to many orphans which may doubt Mumbai on its ability to become the world city it desires to be. Due to the increase of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) there has been talk of redeveloping Dharavi and a committee has been setup called Dharavi Redevelopment Project (DRP) and headed by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) has been a controversial scheme formed with a goal to rehabilitate the entire slum and to re-house all of the residents which have around 72,000 families, also with the money the committee would look to build better infrastructure in and around the area of Dharavi which would increase tourism and generate more income for those businesses in that area.
Mumbai was originally a series of fishing villages that became a port of which site encouraged Mumbai’s development. The port had access to the sea on both sides meaning that the port as well as its surroundings became known as the gateway to India. The banking, finance and insurance sectors that was associated with the port which allowed Mumbai to become India’s major centre of finance. As India’s economy grows and becomes increasingly part of the globalised economy, Mumbai is becoming a world city. It is seen that Mumbai holds the attributes to become a world city, it is a well-respected city and area of India yet the issue of Dharavi lays centre in Mumbai.
Dharavi, as well as Mumbai, holds its own respected attributes breaking the conventions of what we view as ‘slums’, being home to police and fire stations, a post office, high-end shops, two cemeteries, a park and most recently its first ATM was installed. Being originally home to a small fishing village community, I view Dharavi to not necessarily be an ‘Indian national disgrace’ but a relative part of India’s history to becoming the world city it desires to be today. We can also see Mumbai quite similar to Rio and how they have their favelas, but Rio is still recognised as the financial centre of Brazil, as you can see the similarities in figures 5 and 6.
Another similarity is that they are both part of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) economies even though having a vast amount of slums Brazil and India have the biggest economies in world being one of the biggest economies this means more countries would want to trade with you and they would not base their trade on what surrounds the financial centre of the country they are more than likely concentrating on their investment and if its making a profit. Previously I spoke about the DRP and the SRA, they had an initial plan to redevelop the area and provide each family with a 250 square foot apartment, and however this would not allow residents to carry out their businesses due to such small of space.
FIGURE 6- Slum of Dharavi
FIGURE 5- Favelas of Rio
I conclude that despite the negatives Dharavi bring upon Mumbai, I felt the positives overshadow the negatives. Dharavi should be praised on being able to create its own small economy, which other communities may struggle to attain anywhere in the world. Also the city has to recall the history behind the slum due to it being the fundamental to Mumbai’s growth in becoming the world city it wishes to be. This is why I differ with the comment “Dharavi is an Indian national disgrace and an embarrassing blot on Mumbai’s desire to become a world city”; because in my opinion I consider Dharavi is not a national disgrace of and humiliation to Mumbai.
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