An Indian man is standing in front of the door to his home in the Dharavi area of Mumbai, India. Dharavi is a slum in Mumbai, India. It is one of the largest slums in the world. Dharavi slum was founded in 1882s during the British colonial era.
Dharavi, home to more than a million people is no longer Asia's largest slum and in these photos by Kristian Bertel he depicts that Mumbai has at least four larger contenders for the dubious distinction. Some of them three times the size of Dharavi. Though, the island city is now largely free of slums.
Slumdwellers of Dharavi in photos
Asia's formerly largest slum, Dharavi, lies on prime property right in the middle of India's financial capital, Mumbai. It is home to more than a million people. Many are second-generation residents, whose parents moved in years ago. Today's Dharavi bears no resemblance to the fishing village it once was. A city within a city, it is one unending stretch of narrow dirty lanes, open sewers and cramped huts. In a city where house rents are among the highest in the world, Dharavi provides a cheap and affordable option to those who move to Mumbai to earn their living. Rents here can be as low as 185 rupees per month. As Dharavi is located between Mumbai's two main suburban rail lines, most people find it convenient for work. Even in the smallest of rooms, there is usually a cooking gas stove and continuous electricity. Many residents have a small color television with a cable connection that ensures they can catch up with their favorite soaps. Some of them even have a video player.
Despite its plastic and tin structures and lack of infrastructure, Dharavi is a unique, vibrant, and thriving cottage industry complex, the only one of its kind in the world. This is in fact the kind of self-sufficient, self-sustaining 'village' community that Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation dreamt of and wrote about in his books on India's path to development.
Productivity in nearly every home in Dharavi
Dharavi pulsates with intense economic activity. Its population has achieved a unique informal "self-help" urban development over the years without any external aid. It is a humming economic engine. The residents, though bereft of housing amenities, have been able to lift themselves out of poverty by establishing thousands of successful businesses. A study indicates that Dharavi currently has close to 5,000 industrial units, producing textiles, pottery and leather, and performing services like recycling, printing, and steel fabrication. A unique characteristic of Dharavi is its very close work-place relationship. Productive activity takes place in nearly every home. As a result, Dharavi's economic activity is decentralized, human scale, home-based, low-tech and labor-intensive. Unfortunately, Dharavi is depicted as a slum that lacks residential infrastructure concerning roads and housing with individual toilets. In fact it is not a residential slum, but a unique self-contained township. Case studies all over the world have documented the inappropriateness of high-rise resettlement projects in poor areas. The social and economic networks which the poor rely on for subsistence can hardly be sustained in high-rise structures. These high rise projects are not appropriate for home-based economic activities, which play a major role in Dharavi.
As its most basic, the face and its portrait is the site of the senses, which are things such as vision, smell and taste are centred here. It is through the face that one gathers and distributes expressions. In this photo an Indian woman has been photographed at the Dharavi Depot Road.
Dharavi, a modern township
The state government has plans to redevelop Dharavi and transform it into a modern township, complete with proper housing and shopping complexes, hospitals and schools. The erstwhile smaller slums in the suburbs have metamorphosed into contiguous, larger slums. The Kurla-Ghatkopar belt, the Mankhurd-Govandi belt, the Yogi and Yeoor hill slopes stretching from Bhandup to Mulund flanking the Sanjay Gandhi National Park on the east and Dindoshi on the western flank of the National Park have all eclipsed Dharavi. While the profile of the suburban slum sprawls is still to be established, the Mankhurd-Govandi slums that have sprung up at the base of the Deonar dumping ground are known as a "dumping ground" for the city's poor. It has the lowest human development index in the city and is constantly in the news for malnutrition deaths. Moreover, following earlier trends, the slums have come up on hill slopes and mud flats.
Dharavi also has a large number of thriving small-scale industries that produce embroidered garments, export quality leather goods, pottery and plastic. Most of these products are made in tiny manufacturing units spread across the slum and are sold in domestic as well as international markets. The annual turnover of business here is estimated to be more than 600 million dollars a year.
Small-scale industries in Dharavi
The island city is largely clear of slums except on the fringes, like Dharavi in the north, Antop Hill in the east, Geeta Nagar and Ambedkar Nagar in the south and Worli village in the west. Since 2005, the action against slumdwellers, as part of its road widening projects, seems to have had a transformative effect. Significant initiatives were the clearing of slums along Senapati Bapat Marg from Mahim to Elphinstone and P D'Mello road from the General Post Office, Mumbai CST, to Wadala. The exercise of mapping the slums was done by architect and civic activist P K Das, who has been involved with the rehabilitation and resettlement of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park slum-dwellers through the Nivara Hakk Sangharsh Samiti. Numbers from the 2011 census shows there are three crore people in the island city and nine crore in the suburbs, while nearly seventy eight percent of the city's population lives in slums. Population density in the suburbs is the highest in the state, at 20,925 persons per square kilometer, whereas it is 20,038 person per square kilometer in the island city. Official sources said while the government wants to ensure housing for the urban poor, there are legal issues as the Slum Redevelopment Act mandates free housing for structures protected up to 1995. However, urban development officials attributed the lack of progress to the strong builders lobby opposed the scheme as the present Slum Redevelopment Act scheme ensured a profit of nearly forty percent.
Located in the heart of Mumbai, Dharavi has a population of more than 800,000 people residing in 100,000 makeshift homes, and one of the world's highest population densities at more than 12,000 persons per acre.
Dharavi, a vibrant community in the middle of Mumbai
When you look beyond the stereotype, however, and you will find a successful settlement with a vibrant community and economy. The Indian megacity of Mumbai has an estimated population of about 14 million. Of those, only about thirtyfive percent live in 'regular' permanent housing. The other sixtyfive percent live in informal settlements, which for more than a third of those people means squatting on sidewalks and under bridges. The rest which are nearly 6 million people occupy settlements on private and public open lands, some of which are more than fifty years old. Dharavi is one of the most famous, but unlike all others and despite its common depiction as a slum, it is actually a successful work-cum-residential settlement. Located in the heart of Mumbai, Dharavi has a population of more than 800,000 people residing in 100,000 makeshift homes, and one of the world's highest population densities at more than 12,000 persons per acre. It is just across from the Bandra Kurla Complex, a fast developing commercial center that has overtaken Nariman Point, the current downtown of Mumbai and is also located close to Mumbai's domestic and international airports. Despite its plastic and tin structures and lack of infrastructure, Dharavi is a unique, vibrant, and thriving cottage industry complex, the only one of its kind in the world. This is in fact the kind of self-sufficient, self-sustaining 'village' community that Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation dreamt of and wrote about in his books on India's path to development.
Walking from street to street with a camera on his side, he tries to capture the emotions of the people living in India. In this photograph an Indian girl has been photographed in Dharavi.
Much of Maharashtra's population live in slum areas
While one of India's most developed and wealthiest states, Maharashtra is representative of the wealth gap in the country, it houses India's largest and poorest informal settlement, according to a study conducted by the National Sample Survey Organization. This impoverished and over-populated area in India's capital houses 7,000 of the nation's 33,000 slums which is twentythree percent with homes almost doubling that of any other slum in the country. A reported sixty percent of Maharashtra's entire population live in slum areas. The region is one of those most polluted in the world, with little government intervention for proper assessments. "- Working as a photographer in Dharavi gave me the time to develop a story, to dig deep into the subject rather than simply reacting, caught up in a situation. Taking photos truly became a way of telling a story. It was no longer just a case of taking one or two photos that would suggest a story. I could as a photographer now take all the photos and tell the whole story. Walking in the streets of Dharavi I focused on the photojournalistic values of what I was doing. My photos are about the subject, taking photos is above all about telling a story", the photographer says.
Orangi Town is now the largest slum in Asia
The largest slum in Asia, Orangi Town, which is located in Karachi in Pakistan is a settlement that has a negatively effected largely by the growth of globalization. In Orangi Town over eighty percent of its residents are working in the informal sector. Due to a lack of sustainable water supplies, settlers are forced to rely on community groups and each other for clean water, purchased from water tanks. Earning enough money to supply for their basic needs or to purchase adequate land is among the biggest hurdles settlers face in Orangi Town. Although migrants are more ready and willing to solve their various problems, which are plentiful, old-world settlers are less likely.
Photographer's everyday life photos from India
Exploring neighborhoods in India is one of the main photographic inspirations for the photographer. Walking from street to street with a camera on his side, he tries to capture the emotions of the people living in India. Both as a portrait photographer searching for the faces of India to the solemn street scene, where light and composition likely would be captured as well. He works as a freelance photographer and he is available for photo assignments throughout Asia. For further information please:
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More photos from Mumbai and India
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