At the time when the financial capital of India – Mumbai was still an island city, Dharavi used to be known as one of the six greatest koliwalas – fishermen’s communities. India’s booming economy has caused a demand for development and the migration to the city has made Dharavi what it is today – a settlement for the urban poor.
Spread over an area of 550 acres in the heart of Mumbai, Dharavi is home to between 600.000 to 1 million people. The area, known as Asia’s largest slum, has an estimate of 5000 businesses and more than 15000 single room factories where workers from various states of India are busy producing goods for the whole country.
Especially recognized for its recycling, pottery and leather businesses, Dharavi’s yearly turnover is estimated to be approximately US$ 700 million. The workers, who reside within Dharavi itself, spend long hours in congested dark rooms and work for a monthly salary of US$ 40, sometimes less. With an estimate of 1400 people per toilet the sanitary issues are causing various diseases. Solid waste is dumped in the open which results in severe health and environmental problems.
Those who have a home within the slum are still considered to be lucky. The rent for a 8 square meter room can cost anything between US$ 35 to US$ 50 per month in addition to a large deposit at the time of moving in. Lack of birth certificate and/or sufficient income forces families to reside outside Dharavi, in the street.
The redevelopment plan of the slum is a topic of discussion among the residents, who are scared of losing their homes and livelihood. The residents with different geographical and religious backgrounds, have all come to Mumbai with dreams of a better future. Today nobody knows what the future will bring. The cost of a life can be hard to tell in an area where real estate prices top those of Manhattan.