Mumbai

Dharavi Slum, once the largest in India with around 1,000,000 inhabitants, is nicknamed the Heart of Mumbai because of the shape it has filled between V- and W-shaped roads with Mahim in the West and Sion in the East. Dharavi has an estimated 15,000 one-room factories. These images show the lives of the people living there across more than a dozen different industries.

Start in the 13th compound, where an estimated 80% of Mumbai’s plastic waste is recycled. Plastic is being melted down into colored pellets as well as aluminium being melted down and re-cast into machine parts and the inner-workings of kitchen blenders. Palm oil canisters are washed ready for re-distribution back to factories where they are re-filled and re-labelled. There are tens of rooms where young men sat on the ground in poor conditions sorting bags of disposed materials into piles of different types and colours. They will earn 100-150 Rupees per day (2-3 US Dollars) and be allowed to sleep on the factory floor at night.

Head through to Poon Wala Chawl and into Chambda Bazaar, where the maze of alleyways almost shut out all sunlight. For most, a home will be 10 square metres, house 4-5 people, and rent with be around 2,000 Rupees per month (30 US Dollars). The deposit is 11 months up-front.

Finish in Kumhbarwada, named after a community of potters. Furnaces between the houses, covered in raw cotton to achieve a slow burn, act as kilns for the large quantity of pots and urns manufactured for sale elsewhere in Mumbai; the sides of the buildings were covered in soot.

It is a City within a City, with its own postal service and water system (which is on 3 hours per day). I imagine most people think of slums as a dangerous gathering place for the unemployed. Dharavi was far from it. Its manufacturing capabilities, albeit small-scale because of cost restraints, have enabled it to become highly productive with multiple industries, schools and hospitals all within the space of half of New York’s Central Park. And while the approach of the SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Authority) is proving unpopular – because residents only qualify for re-settlement if they have been living in Dharavi since before 1st January 2000 – efforts continue via numerous NGOs to find other means of transforming the Slums.


Source: New York Times article on Dharavi