Rethinking Dharavi

Dharavi is Mumbai’s largest slum – over 400 acres of land where nearly one million people inhabit low-lying structures erected haphazardly on former swamplands. For more than three centuries, this waterlogged region existed at the outskirts of the city – an undesirable stretch where only Mumbai’s poorest and newest residents made their homes. Over time, Dharavi’s relative location has shifted. Today this unplanned, poorly serviced tract sits strategically between the city’s two commuter lines and adjacent to the Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai’s new corporate hub. Land that was once deemed undesirable suddenly claims a valuable, even vital position, and parties who ignored Dharavi for over a century now show a determined interest in its rehabilitation. 

In 1995, in an effort to reinvigorate key slum areas, The Maharashtra Housing and Urban Development Authority (MHADA) established the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) and put into action Mumbai’s current Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRS). The SRS makes innovative use of land as a resource. It offers free land, as well as additional financial incentives, to private real estate developers who agree to rehabilitate existing slum settlements.

Rethinking Dharavi investigates whether the SRS offers an effective answer to Dharavi’s housing needs. This on-going research received a Deborah J. Norden Grant from the Architectural League of New York in 2001 and Tata and Rusti Grants from The Yale Center for South Asian Studies in 2006. The project was included in Travel Reports from the Deborah J. Norden Fund (Gregory Wessner, Editor), published by the Architectural League of New York, 2006.

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