Situated between Mumbai’s Western and Central Railways lines, lies a big are called Dharavi. It is considered one of the largest slums in the world and the largest slum in Asia, a distinction that is perhaps nothing to be proud of. It’s overpopulated rooms and narrow lanes make Dharavi a claustrophobic person’s nightmare.
Unlike the rest of Mumbai, staying in Dharavi is cheap, with rents as low as Rs 500/- a month. However, hygiene is a problem as lavatories are a nightmare and many locals use Mahim Creek as a bathroom.
Some estimates of Dharavi’s population pit it to be about 1 million people. Most of the residents are people from across India who came to Mumbai looking for a livelihood. Around 60% of the population is Hindu, 33% are Muslim and 6% are Christian.
Dharavi has a bustling commercial side and is home to 10,000 different businesses and 15,000 different factories. Goods from here are exported around the world. The total annual turnover of the area is estimated to be over US$ 1 billion.
Dharavi was once a sparsely populated village of Koli fishermen; it was called Koliwadas. It was the growth of factories and tanneries in the region that led to workers moving to the area. For a long time, Dharavi grew on its own and now it presents a real challenge when authorities try to redevelop it.
Since 1997, there have been many plans to redevelop Dharavi. However local businesses and residents often oppose redevelopment out of fear that they might lose what little they have.