Dharavi in Mumbai is one of the biggest slums in the world.
But it is also one of the largest hubs for the recycling and leather goods industries, which contributed to its nearly $ 700 million economy prior to the downturn. Its 60 neighbourhoods make it a virtual city within a megapolis, with its own patterns of building, economic activity, labour markets and communities that have developed over the course of Dharavi’s growth. Dharavi’s innumerable recycling, garment and leather goods units support not just the migrant labourers they employ, but also their families, who wait in far flung villages for the monthly remittances sent by them.
And now, the scale is all set to increase once the 15,000 crore Dharavi Redevelopment Plan gets underway. With private bids invited for redeveloping each of the five sectors the area has been divided into, the face of Dharavi is poised to change beyond recognition. The Dharavi of our popular imagination will be razed and new structures will emerge in the same space: residential high rises, designated commercial units, civic amenities and utilities. But residents are apprehensive, and with reason: the DRP will change not just the way Dharavi looks, but also how Dharavi functions. For better or worse, change is coming to Dharavi and nothing will ever be the same. In the history of Mumbai, the redevelopment of Dharavi promises to be an important chapter.