Slums of Hope and Despair Essay

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  • Created on: 25-01-15 20:08
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"Slums are not a source of despair but are instead, opportunities for hope." To what extent do
you agree with this view? (40
marks)
Urban slums are settlements that do not provide the basic living conditions necessary for its
inhabitants to live in a safe and healthy environment. One such area is the Dharavi slum in
Mumbai, India, which is home to 600,000 and covers 174 ha. Dharavi may be regarded as an
opportunity for hope when considering its unique economic system of self-help. It is home to
approximately 5000 industrial units producing pottery, leather goods and textiles which are often
distributed worldwide, with an annual value of US$500 million. Dharavi also offers recycling and
printing services. Its fast expanding recycling industry, where 80% of waste is recycled, is worth
over £1.5 million a year and employs 10,000 people. It is claimed that Dharavi's recycling zone
could be the way forward to a sustainable future, however the workers are subjected to appalling
conditions, they're paid about £1 a day for their work, often handling dangerous substances such
as hospital waste and melting down plastics without wearing suitable masks to protect them from
the toxic fumes. This can lead to decreases in life expectancy.
Furthermore, in 2004, Mumbai's municipal authorities unveiled a £2 billion plan to completely
rehabilitate Dharavi. The plan involved the construction of 30,000,000 square feet of housing,
schools, parks and roads to serve the 57,000 families residing in the area. By increasing residential
density in Dharavi (replacing shacks with modern, high-rise flats) the developer will be able to free
up a portion of land which can be sold on the commercial market, and the profits put towards
providing residents with this upgraded accommodation for free or at a low cost. This will improve
the quality of life of the inhabitants as there will be more services such as schools. This will
improve education and lead to a rise in literacy rates which can help to lift families out of poverty.
This may also increase the emancipation of women leading to more women having a careers and
subsequently, a reduction in the birth rate, relieving stress on space for housing and resources in
the slum. In this way, Dharavi is a classic `slum of hope.' Following these improvements in living
conditions and infrastructure, it was hoped that Mumbai would be slum-free by 2015, though this
target will not be realised.
There were more than 750 objections to these plans which threaten Dharavi's thriving craft
industry (worth more than US$1 billion a year) as well as an ancient fishing village. Also at risk are
the local shops and markets and the community spirit which has taken generations to develop.
These areas have strong, safe neighbourhoods that have low crime rates and communal areas that
provide a village feel, locals fear that these changes will separate communities and make people
work away from where they live. People in Dharavi seem genuinely happy, with millionaires
choosing to live there even though they could afford to move away. The locals would prefer small
improvements to the existing slum such as improvements in drainage. Due to the objections, the
redevelopment project was halted, however after a nine year wait, new plans were approved in
August 2013. Changes in criteria now mean that 60% of residents will now be rehoused, compared
to the original 40%, however despite this optimistic outlook following the new proposals, the
project has been further delayed over questions of the height of the proposed 18 storey building
and is awaiting permission from the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Due to this, the extent to which I
believe that Dharavi is an opportunity for hope is lessened.

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Land use in Manila is controlled by the private sector which has led to land price increases of
100-200%, reducing access to affordable housing. A second problem is unemployment.
Competition for jobs is high and those without a specific skill set become forced into the informal
sector and poverty. Tondo, the largest and most politically volatile slum in Manila, is home to
180,000 people and has a population density of 80,000 people per km2.…read more

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Approximately 105,000 of Manila's
580,000 immigrants have to build their homes on marginal land, also vulnerable to flooding as well
as tropical storms. If attempts are made to evict these illegal squatters it may lead to civil conflict.
While Dharavi thrives from recycling 80% of waste, providing employment for 10,000 people, in
Manila this is not the case. Of an estimated 6,700 of rubbish generated each day, only a tenth is
recycled or composted.…read more

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