The Heart of Mumbai: Dharavi

About 70-80 % of the Dharavi slum is recognized by municipal authorities as legal slum and gets supplied with municipal water 3-4 hours a day. The waste of the slum often ends up on mismanaged dumps or the river flowing right next to the one square mile slum area.

About 70-80 % of the Dharavi slum is recognized by municipal authorities as legal slum and gets supplied with municipal water 3-4 hours a day. The waste of the slum often ends up on mismanaged dumps or the river flowing right next to the one square mile slum area. Photo: Sebastian Olényi



Dharavi. One million people, one square mile. One of Asia’s, and probably the world’s, biggest slums, not in terms of its area but of the population.

Dharavi is located on top of some of the most expensive real estate of the city and of whole India. Here, to rent a house costs around 6000-8000 rupies (80-100 euros) a month. To buy a house of less than 10 m2, you would need more than 2 million rupies, about 50 000 euros.

The slum is divided into two parts, which looked upon from above form the shape of a heart. That’s why the place is also called “the heart of Mumbai”. In the commercial part, amazing 60-70 % of the Mumbai’s waste gets sorted and recycled. It’s mainly people who have come from Northern States and outside of Mumbai who work in Dharavi’s commercial area, sending whatever money they can back home. Many people here make 100-200 rupies (1,5-3 euros) a day. Since they can’t afford renting a room in the residential part of Dharavi, and for money-saving reasons, they often sleep in the very same factories they work in during the day. The work is hard and often unhealthy, as workers don’t use protective measures. Some of them say that masks would slow them down and make them earn less. Many of the slum’s industries, such as melting aluminium, dyeing clothes, or treating plastic, expose the workers to high-risk deseases, such as lung deseases.

Dharavi recycles 60-70 % of all of Mumbai's waste. Plastic materials are first sorted, then crushed with special machines, washed and after that dried on the rooftops. The plastic is then  shaped into pellets and sold to manufacturers who use it as raw material for any kind of plastic products.

Dharavi recycles 60-70 % of all of Mumbai’s waste. Plastic materials are first sorted, then crushed with special machines, washed and after that dried on the rooftops. The plastic is then shaped into pellets and sold to manufacturers who use it as raw material for any kind of plastic products. Photo: Sebastian Olényi

Plastic drying on the roofs on Dharavi.

Plastic drying on the roofs on Dharavi. Photo: Sebastian Olényi



Of Mumbai’s residents about half, 10 million people, live in slums. The so called legal ones are recognized by authorities, and e.g. get municipal water supply, have public toilets and schools. In the illegal ones however, the situation is worse. Many times people don’t get even the minimum of water supplied, which according to the U.N. is 50 litres per person per day. Diseases spread fast because of open defecation and insufficient sanitation.

Mumbai is a growing megapolis. How it starts to manage its problems now, will affect for sure its future.

These men work in a dyeing shop. The colors are highly toxic, but the workers don't use gloves nor masks to protect themselves during their 8-10-hour working days. The Dharavi slum of Mumbai produces an annual turnover of 650 million U.S. dollars.

These men work in a dyeing shop. The colors are highly toxic, but the workers don’t use gloves nor masks to protect themselves during their 8-10-hour working days. The Dharavi slum of Mumbai produces an annual turnover of 650 million U.S. dollars. Photo: Sebastian Olényi

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