View of Dharavi
View of Dharavi
Dharavi is located in Mumbai
Coordinates: 19°02′16″N 72°51′13″E / 19.03778°N 72.85361°E / 19.03778; 72.85361[1]
Country India
DistrictMumbai City
 • TypeMunicipal corporation
 • BodyBrihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (MCGM)
 • Total2.39 km2 (0.92 sq mi)
20.47 m (67.16 ft)
 • OfficialMarathi
Time zoneUTC+05:30 (IST)
Telephone code+9122
Vehicle registrationMH-01
Civic agencyBMC
Dharavi compared to other great slums in the world. Map according to Mike Davis.

Dharavi is a residential area in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. It is considered India's largest slum and the world's third largest slum, after Pakistan's Orangi, Karachi and Mexico's Ciudad Neza, Mexico City.[1] With a population of about 600,000 and a population density of over 277,136/km2 (717,780/sq mi), Dharavi is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

The Dharavi slum was founded in 1884 during the British colonial era, and grew because the expulsion of factories and residents from the peninsular city centre by the colonial government and from the migration of rural Indians into urban Mumbai. For this reason, Dharavi is currently a highly diverse settlement religiously and ethnically.[2]

Dharavi has an active informal economy in which numerous household enterprises employ many of the slum residents[3]—leather, textiles and pottery products are among the goods made inside Dharavi. The total annual turnover has been estimated at over US$1 billion.[4]

Dharavi has suffered from many epidemics and other disasters, including a widespread plague in 1896 which killed over half of the population of Bombay.[5] Sanitation in the slums remains poor.[6]


In the 18th century, Dharavi was an island with a predominantly mangrove swamp.[7] It was a sparsely populated village before the late 19th century, inhabited by Koli fishermen.[8][9] Dharavi was then referred to as the village of Koliwada.[10]

Colonial era

In the 1850s, after decades of urban growth under East India Company and British Raj, the city's population reached half a million. The urban area then covered mostly the southern extension of Bombay peninsula, the population density was over 10 times higher than London at that time.[10]

Shanty dwellings next to railway tracks in Dharavi (about 2010). A mosque inside the slum is visible. The railway network provides mass transit to the slum residents.

The most polluting industries were tanneries, and the first tannery moved from peninsular Bombay into Dharavi in 1887. People who worked with leather, typically a profession of lowest Hindu castes and of Muslim Indians, moved into Dharavi. Other early settlers included the Kumbhars, a large Gujarati community of potters. The colonial government granted them a 99-year land-lease in 1895. Rural migrants looking for jobs poured into Bombay, and its population soared past 1 million. Other artisans, like the embroidery workers from Uttar Pradesh, started the ready-made garments trade.[8] These industries created jobs, labor moved in, but there was no government effort to plan or investment in any infrastructure in or near Dharavi. The living quarters and small scale factories grew haphazardly, without provision for sanitation, drains, safe drinking water, roads or other basic services. But some ethnic, caste and religious communities that settled in Dharavi at that time helped build the settlement of Dharavi by forming organizations and political parties, building school and temples, constructing homes and factories.[9] Dharavi's first mosque, Badi Masjid, started in 1887 and the oldest Hindu temple, Ganesh Mandir, was built in 1913.[10]


At India's independence from colonial rule in 1947, Dharavi had grown to be the largest slum in Bombay and all of India. It still had a few empty spaces, which continued to serve as waste-dumping grounds for operators across the city.[10] Bombay, meanwhile, continued to grow as a city. Soon Dharavi was surrounded by the city, and became a key hub for informal economy.[11] Starting from the 1950s, proposals for Dharavi redevelopment plans periodically came out, but most of these plans failed because of lack of financial banking and/or political support.[9] Dharavi's Co-operative Housing Society was formed in the 1960s to uplift the lives of thousands of slum dwellers by the initiative of Shri. M.V. Duraiswamy, a well-known social worker and Congress leader of that region. The society promoted 338 flats and 97 shops and was named as Dr. Baliga Nagar. By the late 20th century, Dharavi occupied about 175 hectares (432 acres), with an astounding population density of more than 2,900 people per hectare (1,200/acre).[10][12]

Redevelopment plan

A traditional pottery unit in Dharavi.
Street vendors and farmers market along the road passing through Dharavi slum in Mumbai.

There have been many plans since 1997 to redevelop Dharavi like the former slums of Hong Kong such as Tai Hang. In 2004, the cost of redevelopment was estimated to be 5,000 crore (US$630 million).[13] Companies from around the world have bid to redevelop Dharavi,[14] including Lehman Brothers, Dubai's Limitless and Singapore's Capitaland Ltd.[14] In 2010, it was estimated to cost 15,000 crore (US$1.9 billion) to redevelop.[13]

The latest urban redevelopment plan proposed for the Dharavi area is managed by American-trained architect Mukesh Mehta.[8] The plan involves the construction of 2,800,000 square metres (30,000,000 sq ft) of housing, schools, parks and roads to serve the 57,000 families residing in the area, along with 3,700,000 square metres (40,000,000 sq ft) of residential and commercial space for sale.[15] There is still a significant local opposition to the plans, largely because existing residents still feel 33 square metres (350 sq ft) of revised permanent alternate accommodation per tenant is not adequate each. Furthermore, only those families who lived in the area before 2000 are slated for resettlement. Concerns have also been raised by residents who fear that some of their small businesses in the "informal" sector may not be relocated under the redevelopment plan. Due to this opposition, a trust has been proposed called the Dharavi Community Land Trust that will be made up of community members, landowners and neighborhood associations.

In 2008 German students Jens Kaercher and Lucas Schwind won a Next Generation prize for their innovative redevelopment strategy designed to protect the current residents from needing to relocate.[16]

Other redevelopment schemes include the "Dharavi Masterplan" devised by British architectural and engineering firm Foster + Partners, that proposes "double-height spaces that create an intricate vertical landscape and reflect the community's way of life" built-in phases that the firm says would "eliminate the need for transit camps," instead catalyzing the rehabilitation of Dharavi "from within."

A Dubai-based firm, SecLink Group, has planned to redevelop the slum into a completely new area.[17] On setting up of the SPV, the private firm will have to bring in the equity of Rs 400 crore, while the state government will invest another Rs 100 crore. The company planning to do it is also building infrastructure and affordable housing projects in Singapore and Dubai. Following the empowered committee's nod, the senior state officials said that an MoU will soon be executed between the state government, and the Dharavi Redevelopment Project Authority (DRPA) and the company. With an almost estimated cost of over Rs 26,000 crore, the Dharavi makeover project is the biggest brownfield redevelopment project in India. To make the redevelopment more economically viable, the state government's plan is involving transforming the region into a hub for commercial and business activity. Dharavi is close to the Bandra Kurla Complex, which is India's richest business district and one of the richest in Asia.

In the spring of 2023, it became known that the Indian billionaire Gautam Adani intends to do the reconstruction of Dharavi. Adani Properties Pvt. offers the largest amount of construction investments - 615 million dollars. Mumbai authorities estimate the total cost of the work at $2.4 billion.[18]


The total current population of Dharavi slum is unknown because of floating population of migrant workers coming from neighbouring Gujarat state, albeit voter turnout of 2019 state legislative assembly election was 119,092 (Average 60% turnout). Some sources suggest it is 300,000[19][20] to about a million.[21] With Dharavi spread over 200 hectares (500 acres), it is also estimated to have a population density of 869,565 people per square mile. With a literacy rate of 69%, Dharavi is the most literate slum in India.[22]

The western edge of Dharavi is where its original inhabitants, the Kolis, reside. Dharavi consists of various language speakers such as Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and many more.[23]

About 40% of the population of Dharavi is Muslim, compared to 20% in Mumbai overall.[24][25][26] The Christian population is estimated to be about 7%.[27] Around 10% of the population is Buddhist and the remaining being lower-caste Dalits and Adivasis.

Amongst the people, about 20% work on animal skin production, tanneries and leather goods. Other specialise in pottery work, textile goods manufacturing, retail and trade, distilleries and other caste professions – all of these as small-scale household operations. The slum residents are from all over India, people who migrated from rural regions of many different states.[28] The slum has numerous mosques, temples and churches to serve people of Buddhist, Muslim and Christian faiths; with Badi Masjid, a mosque, as the oldest religious structure in Dharavi.

Location and characteristics

Dharavi is located in Ward H East, marked in dark blue, one of the many British-era administrative wards of Mumbai city limits (yellow). Dharavi is southern end of Ward H East, and other residential and commercial areas in the Ward marked in dark blue include Santacruz, Vile Parle and Mahim.

Dharavi is a large area situated between Mumbai's two main suburban railway lines, the Western and Central Railways. It is also adjacent to Mumbai Airport. To the west of Dharavi are Mahim and Bandra, and to the north lies the Mithi River. The Mithi River empties into the Arabian Sea through the Mahim Creek. The area of Antop Hill lies to the east while the locality called Matunga is located in the South. Due to its location and poor sewage and drainage systems, Dharavi particularly becomes vulnerable to floods during the wet season.

Slum shacks in Dharavi, India.

Dharavi is considered one of the largest slums in the world.[29] The low-rise building style and narrow street structure of the area make Dharavi very cramped and confined. Like most slums, it is overpopulated.


An embroidery unit in Dharavi.

In addition to the traditional pottery and textile industries in Dharavi,[8] there is an increasingly large recycling industry, processing recyclable waste from other parts of Mumbai. Recycling in Dharavi is reported to employ approximately 250,000 people.[30] While recycling is a major industry in the neighborhood, it is also reported to be a source of heavy pollution in the area.[30] The district has an estimated 5,000 businesses[31] and 15,000 single-room factories.[30] Two major suburban railways feed into Dharavi, making it an important commuting station for people in the area going to and from work.

Dharavi exports goods around the world.[3] Often these consist of various leather products, jewellery, various accessories, and textiles. Markets for Dharavi's goods include stores in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.[3] The total (and largely informal economy) turnover is estimated to be between US$500 million,[4] and US$650 million per year,[32] to over US$1 billion per year.[30] The per capita income of the residents, depending on estimated population range of 300,000 to about 1 million, ranges between US$500 and US$2,000 per year.

A few travel operators offer guided tours through Dharavi, showing the industrial and the residential part of Dharavi and explaining about the problems and challenges Dharavi is facing. These tours give a deeper insight into a slum in general and Dharavi in particular.[33]

Utility services

Potable water is supplied by the MCGM to Dharavi and the whole of Mumbai. However, a large amount of water is lost due to water thefts, illegal connection and leakage.[34] The community also has a number of water wells that are sources of non-potable water.

Cooking gas is supplied in the form of liquefied petroleum gas cylinders sold by state-owned oil companies,[35] as well as through piped natural gas supplied by Mahanagar Gas Limited.[36]

There are settlement houses that still do not have legal connections to the utility service and thus rely on illegal connection to the water and power supply which means a water and power shortage for the residents in Dharavi.

Sanitation issues

Inside Dharavi
Mosque in Dharavi

Dharavi has severe problems with public health. Water access derives from public standpipes stationed throughout the slum. Additionally, with the limited lavatories they have, they are extremely filthy and broken down to the point of being unsafe. Mahim Creek is a local river that is widely used by local residents for urination and defecation causing the spread of contagious diseases.[8] The open sewers in the city drain to the creek causing a spike in water pollutants, septic conditions, and foul odours. Due to the air pollutants, diseases such as lung cancer, tuberculosis, and asthma are common among residents. There are government proposals in regards to improving Dharavi's sanitation issues. The residents have a section where they wash their clothes in water that people defecate in. This spreads the amount of disease as doctors have to deal with over 4,000 cases of typhoid a day. In a 2006 Human Development Report by the UN, they estimated there was an average of 1 toilet for every 1,440 people.[37]

Epidemics and other disasters

Dharavi has experienced a long history of epidemics and natural disasters, sometimes with significant loss of lives. The first plague to devastate Dharavi, along with other settlements of Mumbai, happened in 1896, when nearly half of the population died. A series of plagues and other epidemics continued to affect Dharavi, and Mumbai in general, for the next 25 years, with high rates of mortality.[38][39] Dysentery epidemics have been common throughout the years and explained by the high population density of Dharavi. Other reported epidemics include typhoid, cholera, leprosy, amoebiasis and polio.[5][40] For example, in 1986, a cholera epidemic was reported, where most patients were children of Dharavi. Typical patients to arrive in hospitals were in late and critical care condition, and the mortality rates were abnormally high.[41] In recent years, cases of drug resistant tuberculosis have been reported in Dharavi.[42][43]

Fires and other disasters are common. For example, in January 2013, a fire destroyed many slum properties and caused injuries.[44] In 2005, massive floods caused deaths and extensive property damage.[45]

The COVID-19 pandemic also affected the slum. The first case was reported in April 2020.[46]

In the media

From the main road leading through Dharavi, the place makes a desperate impression. However, once having entered the narrow lanes Dharavi proves that the prejudice of slums as dirty, underdeveloped, and criminal places does not fit real living conditions. Sure, communal sanitation blocks that are mostly in a miserable condition and overcrowded space do not comfort the living. Inside the huts, it is, however, very clean, and some huts share some elements of beauty. Nice curtains at the windows and balconies covered by flowers and plants indicate that people try to arrange their homes as cosy and comfortable as possible.

— Denis Gruber et al. (2005)[47]

In the West, Dharavi was most notably used as the backdrop in the British film Slumdog Millionaire (2008).[48] It has also been depicted in a number of Indian films, including Deewaar (1975), Nayakan (1987), Salaam Bombay! (1988), Parinda (1989), Dharavi (1991), Bombay (1995), Ram Gopal Varma's "Indian Gangster Trilogy" (1998–2005), the Sarkar series (2005–2017), Footpath (2003), Black Friday (2004), Mumbai Xpress (2005), No Smoking (2007), Traffic Signal (2007), Aamir (2008), Mankatha (2011), Thalaivaa (2013), Bhoothnath Returns (2014), Kaala (2018) and Gully Boy (2019).

Dharavi, Slum for Sale (2009) by Lutz Konermann and Rob Appleby is a German documentary.[49] In a programme aired in the United Kingdom in January 2010, Kevin McCloud and Channel 4 aired a two-part series titled Slumming It[50] which centered around Dharavi and its inhabitants. The poem "Blessing" by Imtiaz Dharker is about Dharavi not having enough water. For The Win, by Cory Doctorow, is partially set in Dharavi. In 2014, Belgian researcher Katrien Vankrunkelsven made a 22-minute film on Dharavi which is entitled The Way of Dharavi.[51]

Hitman 2, a video game released in 2018, featured the slums of Mumbai in one of its missions.[52][53] The Mumbai based video game Mumbai Gullies is expected to feature the slums of Dharavi in the fictional map.[54][55]

See also


  1. ^ Multiple sources:
    • Dharavi in Mumbai is no longer Asia's largest slum
    • "Karachi's Orangi Town named largest slum in the world". 26 November 2016.
    • "The Biggest Slum in the world - Karachi's Orangi". 17 May 2018.
    • "Orangi, not Dharavi,is Asia's largest slum, claims UNDP". indianexpress.com. 7 September 2009.
    • "Dharavi not Asia's largest slum, it is Karachi: UNDP". 7 September 2009.
    • "Karachi is Asia's largest slum, not Dharavi: UNDP | Mumbai News - Times of India". The Times of India. 6 September 2009.
    • "Dharavi in Mumbai is no longer Asia's largest slum". The Times of India. 2011. Archived from the original on 11 November 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  2. ^ Sharma, Kalpana; Rediscovering Dharavi: Story From Asia's Largest Slum (2000) – Penguin Books ISBN 0-14-100023-6
  3. ^ a b c Ahmed, Zubair (20 October 2008). "Indian slum hit by New York woes". BBC News. Archived from the original on 23 October 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  4. ^ a b "Jai Ho Dharavi". Nyenrode Business Universiteit. Archived from the original on 31 May 2009. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
  5. ^ a b Swaminathan, M. (1995). "Aspects of urban poverty in Bombay." Environment and Urbanization, 7(1), 133–144
  6. ^ The Bombay Slum Sanitation Program – Partnering with Slum Communities for SustainableSanitation in a Megalopolis (PDF). Washington: World bank. 1 September 2006. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 August 2017. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  7. ^ D'Cunha, Jose Gerson (1900). "IV The Portuguese Period". The Origins of Bombay (3 ed.). Bombay: Asian Educational Services. p. 265. ISBN 978-81-206-0815-3. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
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  9. ^ a b c Weinstein, Liza (June 2014). Globalization and Community, Volume 23 : Durable Slum : Dharavi and the Right to Stay Put in Globalizing Mumbai. Minneapolis, MN, USA: University of Minnesota Press. p. 5. ISBN 9780816683109.
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  11. ^ , Eyre, L. (1990), "The shanty towns of central Bombay." Urban Geography 11, pages 130–152
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  14. ^ a b Nandy, Madhurima (23 April 2010). "US firm exits Dharavi project citing delays". Livemint. Archived from the original on 16 September 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  15. ^ "Dharavi redevelopment plan is robbing us of space: residents". Live Mint. 5 September 2007. Archived from the original on 10 December 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  16. ^ info@lafargeholcim-foundation.org, LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction. "Realizing solutions for the redevelopment of Dharavi, Mumbai, In". LafargeHolcim Foundation website. Archived from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Dubai firm to transform Asia's biggest slum". gulfnews.com. 15 February 2019. Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  18. ^ "Миллиардер из Индии решил перестроить район из «Миллионера из трущоб»". RBC (in Russian). 7 June 2023.
  19. ^ Dharavi in Mumbai is no longer Asia's largest slum Archived 25 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine Clara Lewis, The Times of India (6 July 2011)
  20. ^ Slums: The case of Mumbai, India Archived 3 April 2018 at the Wayback Machine Neelima Risbud, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India
  21. ^ Dharavi: Self-created special economic zone for the poor Archived 17 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine Jim Yardley, Deccan Herald (2010)
  22. ^ "Mumbai's slums are India's most literate". Dnaindia.com. 27 February 2006. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
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  24. ^ Chatterji, Roma (29 November 2020). Living With Violence An Anthropology of Events and Everyday Life. Taylor & Francis. p. 6. ISBN 9781000084139. Retrieved 21 April 2024. Jim Masselos (1995) estimates that Dharavi is situated on 432 acres of land and houses 600,000 people of which Muslims constitute about 40 per cent of the population.
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  26. ^ Census Data: India Archived 15 March 2018 at the Wayback Machine Government of India
  27. ^ History of Dharavi churches Archived 27 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine Dharavi Deanery (2011)
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  35. ^ "Cooking gas cylinders to be sold at petrol pumps". Daily News and Analysis. 24 July 2013. Archived from the original on 15 June 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  36. ^ "Piped gas becomes more attractive for the kitchen". Daily News and Analysis. 14 September 2012. Archived from the original on 15 June 2015.
  37. ^ Human Development Report 2006 (PDF) (Report). United Nations Development Programme. 2006. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  38. ^ Gandy, M. (2008), "Landscapes of disaster: water, modernity, and urban fragmentation in Mumbai." Environment and Planning. A, 40(1), 108
  39. ^ Renapurkar, D. M. (1988). "Distribution and Susceptibility of Xenopsylla astia to DDT in Maharashtra State, India." International Journal of Tropical Insect Science, 9(03), 377–380
  40. ^ India Restarts Battle Against Leprosy Archived 23 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine Anjali Thomas, New York Times (12 September 2013)
  41. ^ Mehta et al., "An outbreak of cholera in children of Bombay slums," Journal of Diarrhoeal Diseases Research, June 4(2): page 94
  42. ^ Udwadia, Z. F., Pinto, L. M., & Uplekar, M. W. (2010). "Tuberculosis management by private practitioners in Mumbai, India: has anything changed in two decades?" PLoS One, 5(8), e12023
  43. ^ Loewenberg, S. (2012), "India reports cases of totally drug-resistant tuberculosis," The Lancet, 379(9812), 205
  44. ^ Dharavi turns into fireball as flames engulf slum Archived 25 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine Indian Express (22 January 2013)
  45. ^ Samaddar, S., Misra, B. A., Chatterjee, R., & Tatano, H. (2012). Understanding Community’s Evacuation Intention Development Process in a Flood Prone Micro-hotspot[permanent dead link], Mumbai. IDRiM Journal, 2(2)
  46. ^ Joshi, Sahil (1 April 2020). "First coronavirus case reported from Mumbai's Dharavi slum". India Today. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  47. ^ Denis Gruber, Andrea Kirschner, Sandra Mill, Manuela Schach, Steffen Schmekel, and Hardo Seligman, "Living and Working in Slums of Mumbai," Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg, Institut für Soziologie, Magdeburg, Germany, ISSN 1615-8229 (April 2005)
  48. ^ Mendes, Ana Cristina (2010). "Showcasing India Unshining: Film Tourism in Danny Boyle'sSlumdog Millionaire". Third Text. 24 (4): 471–479. doi:10.1080/09528822.2010.491379. ISSN 0952-8822. S2CID 145021606.
  49. ^ Dharavi, Slum for Sale at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  50. ^ "Slumming It: Dharavi". Channel 4. Archived from the original on 18 January 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2009.
  51. ^ Sse Productions bvba (3 April 2015). "Documentary – The Way Of Dharavi 2014". Archived from the original on 17 October 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2017 – via YouTube.
  52. ^ "Hitman 2: 10 Things To Do In Mumbai That The Game Doesn't Tell You About". TheGamer. 19 July 2019. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  53. ^ "HITMAN™ 2 - Mumbai on Steam". store.steampowered.com. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  54. ^ "WHAT IS MUMBAI GULLIES?". GameEon. 27 November 2020. Archived from the original on 5 April 2023. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  55. ^ January 2021, Bodhisatwa Ray 19 (19 January 2021). "Mumbai Gullies, a GTA styled game from an Indian developer, set to launch soon". TechRadar. Retrieved 18 September 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)

Further reading