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What are Dharavi’s origins and why is it so significant to Mumbai?

What are the Dharavi’s origins and special qualities?

When discussing Dharavi, the words “poverty,” “struggle,” “leather,” “pollution,” “crime,” and “Mumbai” are frequently used. The Dharavi Slum, which has appeared in internationally popular films like Slumdog Millionaire, is renowned for giving birth to several rags-to-riches tales in India.

Although Dharavi has become well-known throughout the world, many people are unaware of its exact beginnings and trajectory of development. such as, “What is Dharavi?” Why did the slum expand so much? What makes it unique from other shantytowns? etc. are still open for many. To help you learn more about Dharavi, we offer both private and group slum tour programmes. This article’s goal is to provide you with a general overview of Dharavi and its history.

The History of the Biggest Slum in Asia

In Mumbai, India’s financial hub, the largest slum in Asia is called Dharavi. More than 2 million migrant semi-skilled workers and laborers struggle to make ends meet in the City of Dreams in the Dharavi slum, which has an area of just over 2.1 square kilometers.

It was created in 1884 during the British colonial era with the intention of creating a separate industrial unit for enterprises that produce pollution. The first industry to be relocated to Dharavi in 1887 was the leather tannery industry, which was the most polluting sector in Bombay. Early residents in the Slum included tannery employees and a group of Gujrati potters known as Kumbhars.

Migrant workers from every state in India flocked to one of the cities with the highest rate of job growth with the hope of finding better employment possibilities. As a result, Dharavi became home to a wide variety of artisans and workers from all across India. In Dharavi, one may find Muslim leather tanners from Tamil Nadu, artisans and embroidery workers from Uttar Pradesh, as well as potters from Saurashtra.

Poor maintenance and provisions for sanitization, sewers, safe drinking water, roads, and other essentials were brought on by the unplanned proliferation of micro and small companies supported by a growing population of employees, with zero government intents to invest in the slum.

A Growing Informal Economy

Without any assistance from the government, Dharavi continued to expand dramatically after independence and soon became a separate city. With numerous generations of a family residing in the same home and working in the same field, Dharavi transformed into a secular, industry-driven, and slum-dwelling economic powerhouse. The slum was separated into two sections, with one-fourth of the area being set aside for companies that contribute to pollution, such as recycling plastic and tanning leather, which the ghetto depends on. The remaining 3/4 of the land was designated for residential use, and it is littered with shacks connected by tiny roads that have created the unofficial Dharavi map.

The boundaries of the ghetto were soon drawn by the neighbouring lands becoming landfills. Dharavi grew over time as a centre for migrants looking to settle in the city of dreams as Bombay prospered and expanded. The Slum developed into an unorganised economy of its own, unaffected by the authorities or the city that encircled it.

Relationship between Dharavi and Mumbai: Love and Hate

Despite the government’s disregard for Dharavi, it has managed to survive and has been instrumental in Mumbai’s growth. Dharavi has gained international popularity thanks to films like “Slum Dog Millionare,” numerous more YouTube blogs, and online articles. Dharavi supplies a significant amount of Mumbai’s workforce, enabling the city to meet its increasing demand.

More than 20,000 single-room small and micro-scale businesses, including pottery barns, plastic recycling units, leather washing and production, metal recycling, ancillary units, embroidery workers, and many more, are currently located in the Dharavi slum. The future of numerous significant enterprises depends critically on Dharavi, whose total annual revenue surpasses $1 billion. Along with being sold throughout India, Dharavi-produced goods are also exported to numerous Gulf and European nations as well as the United States. In Mumbai, these small enterprises employ about 2,50,000 people.

With a literacy rate of more than 90%, Dharavi is the most literate slum in India. Within the slum are numerous private, government-run, semi-government, and NGO schools that have produced outstanding brains that have represented India abroad. Numerous manufacturers now have entrepreneurs as a result of the slum’s commercial orientation. Factory owners in Dharavi have created and patented a number of recycling and cutting devices.

Although the Dharavi recycling facilities for plastic and metal help businesses become more environmentally friendly, they also directly affect the health of the workers. Without basic safety gear including gloves, masks, safety goggles, and in some cases footwear, the workers perform their work in extremely hazardous conditions. To save time, the food people eat is prepared using dangerous agents and chemicals. The average lifespan of a resident of Dharavi is therefore 7–10 years less than that of residents of other areas of Mumbai.

Any slum’s largest problem is sanitation, and Dharavi is no exception. From Dharavi, some of the largest sewer lines in Mumbai run, the majority of which are uncovered. Both proper sewage systems and minimal toilet facilities are absent from the homes in Dharavi. A community toilet is used by hundreds of dwellings, some of which don’t get regular water supply. Since the 1950s, a number of development plans have been put up for Dharavi, but the most of them have fallen through because of a lack of funding, political unpredictability, and corruption.

The anticipated cost of transforming Dharavi into a well-modernized township is $2.1 billion, and many global businesses have submitted bids. The majority of these initiatives are for the construction of apartment complexes that could raise the level of living for slum people. The displacement of numerous families that depend on the slum for their life as well as the loss of companies would result from this, though.

How do you get a feel for Dharavi life?

You don’t have to be from Mumbai to appreciate Dharavi’s beauty and hardships. Exploring the harsh yet lovely pathways of the Slum reveals an array of cultures, arts, and traditions. To give you a taste of the fast-paced life of Dharavi, Magical Mumbai Tours provides comprehensive private and group Dharavi slum tour packages. You can experience life in one of the biggest slums in the world in safety and excitement thanks to our native English-speakers and local guides. Therefore, give us a call immediately to reserve your Mumbai tour package and discover the winding streets of Dharavi.

Author – Samir

A professional Mumbai Tour guide that helps visitors explore authentic mumbai with his team. Through his love of writing and Mumbai he curates multiple articles to teach visitors about the beautiful city of dreams. Instagram profile link:-

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