Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Dharavi (Mumbai)

Yesterday I finally took the famous (infamous?) tour of the Dharavi slum in Mumbai. The tour, run by Reality Tours, takes a 2-hour walk through Asia's largest slum -- 1 million people live and work on a site that's about 500 acres.

For privacy reasons, photography is not permitted on the tour, but at one point, the tour climbs ladders to the roof, and photos are permitted.

A view of Dharavi from a rooftop in the plastics recycling area. Just about everything that can be recycled is processed in Dharavi -- including such truly dangerous industries as melting aluminum cans into aluminum ingots. The blue bridge structure is an under-construction pedestrian walkway over the main market street in Dharavi. It also will be a pedestrian connection between the Central Railroad and the Western Railroad.
Roof tops are used for drying and storage. As you can see, mobile phone service is available, and most residents have a satellite dish for television. The electricity supply is among the best in India.
These high-rises are part of a slum redevelopment project, which has its plusses and minuses. Sanitation is much better in modern units, but the modern housing does not provide for the cottage industries that many residents depend upon for their income.
Sanitation is a huge problem. With only 1 toilet for every 700 residents, preventable diseases are common. Nonetheless, the houses are generally very clean, and every cubic inch of space is used. There were no beggars or hawkers, and everyone seemed to have a job and a purpose. Violence is low -- you feel quite safe on the tour.

If you find yourself in Mumbai, I highly recommend this tour. It shows a side of Mumbai that is usually sensationalized in movies (most famously, Slumdog Millionaire -- a movie which most Indians find disrespectful at best). Go with Reality Tours -- they target their profits to improving education and lives in Dharavi. Not to mention that their guides are outstanding in their knowledge and enthusiasm.

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