Dharavi: Asia´s Largest Slum and Problems Essay

Dharavi: Asia´s Largest Slum and Problems Essay

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Dharavi, widely known as Asia’s largest slum, is home to more than a million people and characterized by its prime location in the middle of India’s commercial and financial capital of Mumbai. With significant government and market pressure to develop into a world-class city, and increasing population growth continuing to limit housing opportunities, the fate of Dharavi has become a highly contested and politicized issue (Boano, Lamarca & Hunter 2011). In light of this pressing problem, this essay will provide an overview and description of Dharavi, an outline of the key housing issues and challenges that the government and stakeholders face, and an analysis of housing policy initiatives.

Overview of the city’s/neighborhoods general characteristics

Dharavi is situated on prime real estate in the heart of Mumbai, encompassing almost 293 hectares and housing between 700,000 and 1.2 million residents (Chatterji 2005, p. 198; Sharma 2000). From a distance, a view of Mumbai city exposes the very stark divide between the rich and abject poor; decrepit informal huts made of mud, brick, asbestos and garbage (Desai 1988, p. 71), set against a backdrop of modern million dollar skyscrapers (figure 1). Contrary to this depiction though, Dharavi also stands out for its lively and prosperous informal economy in small-scale industry, handicrafts and recycling (SPARC 2010); that employs over 80% of Dharavi’s residents and produces an annual turnover of over $500 million a year (BUDD 2009; The Economist 2005, p. 43). As a slum, Dharavi is therefore unique in the fact that it is characterized as both a residential and industrial area, a feature that has greatly influenced both the tolerance and encouragement of its existence (Sharma 2000) .

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...V 1988, ‘Dharavi, the Largest Slum in Asia’, Habitat International, vol. 12, no. 2, pp.67-74.

Sharma, K 2000, Rediscovering Dharavi: Stories from Asia’s Largest Slum, Penguin Books, Hawthorn.


Bapat, M & Agarwal, I 2003, ‘Our Needs, Our Priorities: Women and Men from the Slums in Mumbai and Prune Talk About Their Needs for Water and Sanitation”, Environment and Urbanization, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 71-86.

Pacione, M 2006, ‘City Profile Mumbai’, Cities, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 229-238.

Patel, S 2010, ‘ Dharavi: Makeover or Takeover?’, Economic & Political Weekly, vol. 45, no. 24, pp. 47.

SPARC 2010, Reinterpreting, reimagining, redeveloping Dharavi, SPARC, Mumbai, India.

The Economist 2005, ‘Inside the slums’, The Economist, vol. 374, no. 8411, p. 29.

Nijman, J 2008, ‘Against the odds: Slum rehabilitation in neoliberal Mumbai’, Cities, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 73-85.

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