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22 March 2009 Slum in Way of Mumbai?s Progress

Mumbai (Bombay) is India?s biggest city and greatest hope, with aspirations of becoming the next Shanghai.

But in the way of its rapid progress stands Asia?s largest slum.

Dharavi sits in the heart of the financial capital, but plans to transform it are being met with fierce opposition.

Every inch of the slum is occupied. Rows of corrugated iron shacks are packed with the belongings of the hundreds of families who live here. Young children play with stray dogs among the filth and rubbish.

There is little sign of clean drinking water and the sanitation facilities are appalling - up to 800 people are forced to share one toilet.

Dharavi bears all the hallmarks of India?s most crippling problems.

Sixty-year-old Razman has been living in the slum for 10 years. He invites me into his tiny home.

There is a small stove in one corner and a tired old fan - if I stretch my arms out I can touch both walls of the room that is home to the five members of his family, including two small children.

?Black hole?

"We want change and for conditions to improve for the people who live here. There is nowhere for my grandchildren to play but I cannot afford to move from here," he says.

The Maharashtra state government has a vision for Dharavi - to turn the eyesore into a clean green corner of Mumbai.

Mukesh Mehta is the architect employed to put together a $2bn bid from major developers from across the world to demolish Dharavi and build homes and amenities its residents desperately need.

"Dharavi is a black hole - something we should be ashamed of," says Mr Mehta.

"My vision would be that it would be transformed into one of the better suburbs of Mumbai - it will be forgotten as any kind of slum - there will be state of the art modern amenities and a lot of happy people living in Dharavi."

But many of the residents have other ideas.

They refuse to be transformed by international companies who have little or no idea of their community and what it needs.

Their neighbourhood may be plagued by a crippling infrastructure but at the heart of Dharavi is a bustling business district that generates up to $39m a year.


The tiny alleys that lead through the maze that is Asia?s biggest slum are packed with small worksh

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