Dharavi not Asia's largest slum, it is Karachi: UNDP | world | Hindustan Times
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Dharavi not Asia's largest slum, it is Karachi: UNDP

North of Karachi, where the city meets the Khasa Hills, forming a natural border for the city, stands Orangi Town — one of the largest slum dwellings of Asia. It is spread over nearly 50 square kms, reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: Sep 07, 2009 00:44 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

North of Karachi, where the city meets the Khasa Hills, forming a natural border for the city, stands Orangi Town — one of the largest slum dwellings of Asia. It is spread over nearly 50 square kms.

Unlike many other inner city slums, Orangi Town is spread over a large area that even today continues to expand.

Earlier, it was believed Dharavi — which is in the heart of India's financial capital Mumbai — is not the largest slum.

But the Human Development Report for Mumbai, by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and released by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has clarified that “Dharavi is not Asia's largest slum, but Karachi's Orangi Township has surpassed Dharavi.”

Orangi Town’s thickly populated area accommodates a number of ethnic communities but is predominantly Bihari. People from other parts of India — late migrants who came in the '70s and onwards — have made Orangi their home too, with many from Uttar Pradesh. Besides, there are Pathans from the Frontier province, Punjabis, Seraikis and other communities.

It is believed over a million people live or work here.

Orangi was the centre of ethnic conflict in the 90s when Pathans and Mohajirs (migrants from India) fought it out for control of the city. Things are have now settled down.

“There are Pathan areas and there are Mohajir areas and we know which is where,” says Kamran Ashraf, a resident of Orangi.

Orangi now has a booming cottage industry — making things as diverse as slippers and saris, that are sold in Karachi and even exported. Its biggest success story has been the Orangi Pilot Project, a self-help scheme started by the legendary Dr Akhtar Hamid Khan, who had earlier worked on collectives in what was then East Pakistan.

Perween Rehman, who heads the project, said residents have successfully installed sewers and water pipelines and built roads, schools and clinics over the past 20 years. The government has been missing here since officially Orangi “does not exist.”