Dharavi Slums Case Study Gcse Science

Dharavi slum is located in Mumbai (formally Bombay) in India. India’s and Mumbai's biggest slum is known as Dharavi. There are a million people crammed into one square mile in Dharavi. At the edge of Dharavi the newest arrivals come to make their homes on waste land next to water pipes in slum areas. They set up home illegally amongst waste on land that is not suitable for habitation. In the wet monsoon season these people have huge problems living on this low lying marginal land. Many of the people here come from many parts of India as a result of the push and pull factors of migration.

Conditions in the slum
In the slum people have to live with many problems. People have to go to the toilet in the street and there are open sewers.  Children play amongst sewage waste and doctors deal with 4,000 cases a day of diphtheria and typhoid.Next to the open sewers are water pipes, which can crack and take in sewage. Dharavi slum is based around this water pipe built on an old rubbish tip. The people have not planned this settlement and have no legal rights to the land. There are also toxic wastes in the slum including hugely dangerous heavy metals.Dharavi is made up of 12 different neighbourhoods and there are no maps or road signs. The further you walk into Dharavi from the edge the more permanent and solid the structures become. People live in very small dwellings (e.g. 12X12ft), often with many members of their extended families.

Many architects and planners claim this slum could hold the solution to many of the problems of the world’s largest cities.

Water is a big problem for Mumbai's population; standpipes come on at 5:30am for 2 hours as water is rationed. These standpipes are shared between many people. Rubbish is everywhere and most areas lack sanitation and excrement and rats are found on the street. 500 people share one public latrine.
The famous cloth washing area also has problems, despite its social nature sewage water filters into the water used for washing clothes.

The Positives of Dharavi Slum
There are positives; informal shopping areas exist where it is possible to buy anything you might need. There are also mosques catering for people's religious needs.

There is a pottery area of Dharavi slum which has a community centre. It was established by potters from Gujarat 70 years ago and has grown into a settlement of over 10,000 people. It has a village feel despite its high population density and has a central social square.
Family life dominates, and there can be as many as 5 people per room. The houses often have no windows, asbestos roofs (which are dangerous if broken) and no planning to fit fire regulations. Rooms within houses have multiple functions, including living, working and sleeping.

Many daily chores are done in social spheres because people live close to one another. This helps to generate a sense of community. The buildings in this part of the slum are all of different heights and colours, adding interest and diversity. This is despite the enormous environmental problems with air and land pollution.

85% of people have a job in the slum and work LOCALLY, and some have even managed to become millionaires.

Recycling and waste in Dharavi

Kevin McCloud found that people seemed genuinely happy in the slum. However, toilets are open holes above a river – hardly hygienic. This could lead to Dengue fever, cholera and hepatitis

Dharavi has a recycling zone. It is claimed that Dharavi’s recycling zone could be the way forward to a sustainable future. Everything is recycled from cosmetics and plastics to computer keyboards. 23% of plastic waste gets recycled in the UK, in Mumbai it is 80%. However, it is humans who work to sift the rubbish in the tips where children and women sift through the rubbish for valuable waste. They have to work under the hot sun in appalling conditions. They earn around a £1 a day for their work.

At the edge of the tip the rag dealers sort their haul before selling it on to dealers. The quandary is that people have to work in poor conditions to recycle waste. From the tip it arrives in Dharavi where it is processed. It is sorted into wire, electrical products, and plastics. Plastics in India are continuously recycled. People work in dangerous conditions with toxic substances without protective clothing; this could affect people’s life expectancy. Even dangerous hospital waste is recycled.

One private enterprise makes the metal cages inside suitcases, making 700 pieces per day, paid 3 rupees per piece. There are 15,000 one room factories in Dharavi which there are 300 feeding most of Mumbai. Many of the products from Dharavi end up around the world based upon very cheap labour. Many of the people work in very poor working conditions, and includes children. Indeed, Dharavi is trying to do in 20 years what the west did in 200, develop.

Managing and improving Squatter settlements

Large scale redevelopment

A $2billion development project threatens the recycling district and part of Dharavi. The land upon which Dharavi is built is next to Mumbai’s financial district. This makes it a prime target for redevelopment. The people who are relocated will be put into smaller housing in apartment blocks. An ancient fishing village is also threatened. These areas have strong safe neighbourhoods that have low crime and communal areas. Also at risk are the local shops and markets and the community spirit which has taken generations to develop. The locals would prefer small improvements to the existing slum such as improvements in drainage. The value of land is so high that redevelopment is now a real threat. The alternative accommodation is very small.

The slum dwellers face 14 story apartments as accommodation as proposed by the cities Slum Rehabilitation Authority. This will separate communities and make people work away from where they live. Only people who have lived in the slum since 2000 will be relocated. Current redevelopment projects are densely populated and house lots of people. They are not good for community cohesion.

Local Based Improvements

There is an alternative to large scale redevelopment and that is to allow LOCAL people design the improvements to the slum.

The Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres, better known as SPARC, this is an NGO that supports the efforts of local people to get better housing for their many members. Ideas generated from local people supported by this charity include adding an extra floor to buildings so that all family members can be accommodated in the same building. These flats also had 14-foot high ceilings and a single tall window so are well ventilated, bright, and less dependent on electric fans for cooling. Their loft spaces add extra room without seeming crowded, and include small spaces for bathing. But toilets are placed at the end of each of the building’s four floors, and kept clean by the two or three families who use each one. These ideas only work when water is running in Dharavi.

Architecture students have also been hard at work. One student has created a multi-storey building with wide outer corridors connected by ramps “space ways in the sky,” to replicate the street. These space ways allow various activities to be linked, such as garment workshops, while maintaining a secluded living space on another. Communal open space on various levels allows women to preserve an afternoon tradition, getting together to do embroidering.

One student also tried to help the potters of Dharavi. He designed into existing houses the living space at one end and a place to make the pots at the other. Each has an additional open terrace on which to make pots, which are fired in a community kiln.

As the National Slum Dwellers Federation has repeatedly proven, housing the poor works best, costs less and is better for the environment, when the poor themselves have a say in what is being built.

Dharavi could also follow the Brazilian model, as evidenced in Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro. Within the Favelas the government has assisted people in improving their homes. Breeze blocks and other materials (pipes for plumbing etc) were given as long as people updated their homes.  This is an approach known as SITE and SERVICE.

The Brazilian government also moved a lot of people out of shanty towns and into low cost, basic housing estates with plumbing, electricity and transport links. The waiting list for these properties was huge.

Suburbanisation in Mumbai

Mumbai now has a long history of suburbanisation, and many key events have occurred in the suburbanisation process, initially in a Northwards direction along major transport routes such as roads and rail links, and now in an Eastward direction.  This suburbanisation has involved not just the growth of residential areas but also the relocation and growth of new industrial areas.

1930s to 1940s

The rise of Shivaji Park area, Matunga and Mahim as the outlying suburbs

1960s (post independence)

Inner suburbs in southern Salsette and Chembur-Trombay had emerged


Assimilation of the `extended suburbs' beyond Vile-Parle and Ghatkopar.

As with other major cities, other towns and villages have been swallowed up by Mumbai in the process of suburbanisation. In the last decade, Thane, Vashi and Belapur have become extended suburbs despite being planned as individual towns. All of these developments are summarised in the map below.

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