Dharavi slum started over seventy years ago. Although Mumbai is one of the
greatest cities in the world with an expensive and expansive building, it is also home
to the largest slum in India-Dharavi. Driven by poverty and homeless, families have
set up homes on a dumpsite. Dharavi is home to more than 1 million dwellers. Despite
the deplorable conditions, their population is always growing as new people set up
their structure. Even with a dense population, the slum is organized into numerous
distinct neighborhoods. The different lanes are accessible through a maze of paths,
which is only familiar to the dweller. There are no maps, road signs, and any
direction. The lanes are extremely narrow and full of life. A mixture of aromas and
stale smell makes navigating the slum as a strenuous affair. Most of the housing
structures are temporary and irregular at the edges by becoming organized towards the
middle. The inside consists of classified roads and solid buildings, which indicates
that these were the original dwellers (Dyson, 2012).
The population density of people and structure has made it difficult to get space
for any social amenities like hospitals, temples, and recreational facilities. However,
there are many businesses in different places in the slum. The density makes it
challenging to build any popular place of worship that many dwellers transform the
street spaces into temples, churches, and mosques. Because space is a limited resource
in the slums, it has to become flexible. A house can become the living room in one
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instance and a bedroom in the next. The community treasures television as a source of
entertains so much that in one community, entry is exchanged with a TV set. This
kind of organization reveals the intrinsic nature of human socialization. There are self-
appointed or community appointed leaders who keep order in the small villages. This
structure ensures that there are accountability and harmony within the different
neighborhoods in the slum (Weinstein, 2014).
Slums are densely populated informal settlements with little to no
accommodation for privacy. The Dharavi slum reveals the social fabric of the poor of
India. On the surface, there is a veneer of calm, and a semblance of happiness as
children roam over the vast city pipes, and women go about their house chores. The
idea of privacy is so foreign that it is familiar to children defecating into the sewage
water. The families are tightly knit together with family members living in the mean
structures. Extended families in India live together even after marriage. The society
itself is aversive to foreigners. However, this is because very few people would want
to be exposed to these deplorable conditions. Although most people are fascinated by
the social meeting places in India, the slums' collective ground where public washing
happens is toxic and nasty. There is a lot of social interaction in this place, but of
course, it is not optional (Subbaraman et. al., 2014).
There is a loosely structured form of community leadership in the slums. Most
of the dwellers are suspicious of outsiders. There is a sense in which they can
recognize individuals who do not belong. Some areas of the slum are more organized
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than others. In one area, there are Gujarat people who have specialized in pottery and
have lived in the slums for over 70 years. These are slum industries that arise from
their community craft that fits into the community lifestyle. The communal spaces
also differ, with some being more open while others are congested. Some dwellers are
also more accommodative than others. In some places, visitors are given the honor of
sleeping in the most comfortable bed in the house (Nijman, 2008).
Dharavi is built on top of the rubbish and the cesspits of waste. Their housing
structure is built on top of the trash, and their water supply pipes run through toxic
sewers. There is water rationing in the slums in the city, which houses 16 million
residences. The day of the slum begins early because the residents need to get water
for the whole day. There is rubbish and human waste everywhere. The sanitation
status in these areas is non-existent outside of the individual structures. Although there
are public latrines, upwards of 500 people share on the toilet. It seems there is little
government intervention towards providing most of these public amenities. Most of
the sewers are open and occasionally when water pipes crack the draw in raw waste.
The contaminated water is the source of many public health ailments like diphtheria,
tuberculosis, and typhoid. The physicians in the slums deal with up to 4,000 cases of
these sicknesses. Poor public sanitization is one of the endemic signs of slums. Due to
the limited space, most families in the slums prepare food on the ground, which is not
sanitary. The air quality is poor because of the burning and poor aeration in the houses
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and lack of trees. The communal living poses a risk for the spreading of
communicable diseases. In one instance, up to 21 people living and sleep in the same
house. The slums factories are also susceptible to unhygienic processing practices,
which increases cholera (Chaplin, 2011).
Chaplin, S. E. (2011). Indian cities, sanitation and the state: the politics of the failure
to provide. Environment and Urbanization, 23(1), 57-70.
Dyson, P. (2012). Slum tourism: representing and interpreting ‘reality’in Dharavi,
Mumbai. Tourism Geographies, 14(2), 254-274.
Nijman, J. (2008). Against the odds: Slum rehabilitation in neoliberal
Mumbai. Cities, 25(2), 73-85.
Subbaraman, R., Nolan, L., Shitole, T., Sawant, K., Shitole, S., Sood, K., … & Patil-
Deshmukh, A. (2014). The psychological toll of slum living in Mumbai, India: A
mixed methods study. Social Science & Medicine, 119, 155-169.
Weinstein, L. (2014). The durable slum: Dharavi and the right to stay put in
globalizing Mumbai (Vol. 23). U of Minnesota Press.