Slum areas of Mumbai (Bombay) in India
Slum areas arise within the city, where people live in small shanty houses made of simple materials. Dharavi is one of the locations in Mumbai, India, that the photographer covered for a photo essay. It houses one of the largest slums in the world and the slum reflect life in the slums very well. A photo walk through the city's wide open slums tells you that despite a growing economy in India the urbanization still has its toll in India's many cities.
Dharavi, a slum in India
The slum of Dharavi is a slum that was founded in 1882s during the British colonial era and this particularly slum grew in part because of an expulsion of factories and residents from peninsular city center by colonial government and from rural poor migrating into urban Mumbai, then called Bombay. At India's independence from colonial rule in 1947, Dharavi had grown to be the largest slum in Mumbai and all of India and it still had a few empty spaces, which continued to serve as waste-dumping grounds for operators across the city. Mumbai, meanwhile, continued to grow as a city and soon Dharavi was surrounded by the city and became a key hub for informal economy. When photographing in Dharavi it is easy to see that it currently is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, diverse settlement. Dharavi's total population estimates vary between 300,000 to about 1 million people. Dharavi is considered one of the largest slums in the world and has an active informal economy in which numerous household enterprises employ many of the slum residents and it exports goods around the world. Leather, textiles and pottery products are among the goods made inside Dharavi by the slum residents. As a photographer going into the slum of Dharavi, it is understandable that Dharavi has suffered through many incidences of epidemics and other disasters. Dharavi is located between Mumbai's two main local railways, Western Railway and Central Railway. West of Dharavi are the districts of Mahim and Bandra and north of Dharavi is the river Mithi, which flows into the Arabian Sea. South and east of Dharavi are the districts of Zion and Matunga. Both the location and poor drainage make Dharavi prone to flooding during the rainy season.
Bandra and Wadala, other slum areas in Mumbai
Mumbai has been one of the centers of India's urbanization for two hundred years. At the middle of the nineteenth century, after decades of urban growth under East India Company and British Raj, the city's population reached half a million. The urban area then covered mostly the southern extension of Mumbai peninsula, the population density was over ten times higher than London at that time. Most parts of Mumbai faced an acute shortage of housing and serious problems with the provision of water, sanitation and drainage. Residential areas were segregated in Mumbai between European and 'native' residential quarters. Slums were heavily concentrated in areas meant for 'native' Indian population and it attracted no planning or London-like investment for quality of life of its inhabitants. Urban poverty encourages the formation and demand for slums. With rapid shift from rural to urban life which can be seen in Wadala, poverty migrates to urban areas. The urban poor arrives with hope and very little of anything else and he or she typically has no access to shelter, basic urban services and social amenities. Slums are often the only option for the urban poor.
Slums of Mumbai and slum Bombay typically begin at the outskirts of a city like in the Bandra and Wadala area of Mumbai. Over time, the city may expand past the original slums, enclosing the slums inside the urban perimeter. New slums sprout at the new boundaries of the expanding city, usually on publicly owned lands, thereby creating an urban sprawl mix of formal settlements, industry, retail zones and slums. This makes the original slums valuable property, densely populated with many conveniences attractive to the poor. At their start, slums are typically located in least desirable lands near the town or city, that are state owned or philanthropic trust owned or religious entity owned or have no clear land title. In cities located over a mountainous terrain, slums begin on difficult to reach slopes or start at the bottom of flood prone valleys, often hidden from plain view of city center but close to some natural water source.
"In cities located near lagoons, marshlands and rivers, slums start at banks or on stilts above water or the dry river bed, in flat terrain, slums begin on lands unsuitable for agriculture, near city trash dumps or next to railway tracks and other shunned undesirable locations"
With Mumbai the second largest urban agglomeration in the world is located in India, making it a major challenge in terms of urbanization. Fortunately, Earth's largest urban space provides plenty of inspiration as a prosperous megacity that runs like a well-oiled machine proving that even extreme urbanization can be overcome. But this wealth must not be confined to the highest social class. In the Indian capital of Mumbai, the economic capital of the South Asian republic, are the most expensive residential palaces in the country, but also the largest slum in Asia. Urban poverty, slums and limited access to safe drinking water and sanitation are just a few of the Herculean tasks that bring increasing urbanization and modernization rates for the country. Smart urban development strategies and clever government programs are needed to turn challenges into opportunities. Fortunately, some such initiatives have already been launched. Housing for All India has set itself a very ambitious goal that in year 2022, affordable housing should be provided for every poor household. The project envisages the construction of twenty million houses in urban areas in more than 2,500 cities and the funding and implementation should be through a combination of public and private initiatives, such as loan-linked grants and housing, which will be influenced by the beneficiaries.
Slum areas of India are characterized by
• Substandard housing structures
• Heavely population
• Small industries
Shanty towns and materials
Shanty homes are often built hurriedly, on ad hoc basis, with materials unsuitable for housing. Often the construction quality is inadequate to withstand heavy rains, high winds or other local climate and location. Paper, plastic, earthen floors, mud-and-wattle walls, wood held together by ropes, straw or torn metal pieces as roofs are some of the materials of construction. In some cases, brick and cement is used, but without attention to proper design and structural engineering requirements and various space, dwelling placement bylaws and local building codes may also be extensively violated and overcrowding is another characteristic of slums. Many dwellings are single room units, with high occupancy rates. Each dwelling may be cohabited by multiple families and five and more persons may share a one-room unit, where the room is used for cooking, sleeping and living. Overcrowding is also seen near sources of drinking water, cleaning, and sanitation where one toilet may serve dozens of families. "- The slums I have visited in India are like cities in themselves, where daily life evolves through the day, and as a photographer not only the people are interesting to photograph but also the wide variety of colors in plastic and the patterns of the roof tops are interesting subjects to photograph", the Photographer says.
Read also: Slum children of Dharavi