Photos: Mumbai slum-dwellers wary of Dharavi redevelopment

Residents of Asia's most famous slum fear a multi-billion-dollar plan to transform the area into a Singapore-like enclave featuring luxury skyscrapers and shopping malls will destroy its vast informal economy. Indian authorities have asked a developer to tear down and rebuild Dharavi, a bustling settlement in Mumbai known as the backdrop for Danny Boyle's hit 2008 movie "Slumdog Millionaire".

UPDATED ON JUN 21, 2019 10:15 AM IST 10 Photos
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Residents speaking in a narrow lane between their houses in Dharavi. Supporters of the redevelopment say the project will uplift hundreds of thousands of lives, but critics claim it will destroy Dharavi’s social fabric and accuse officials of pandering to property developers. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

Residents speaking in a narrow lane between their houses in Dharavi. Supporters of the redevelopment say the project will uplift hundreds of thousands of lives, but critics claim it will destroy Dharavi’s social fabric and accuse officials of pandering to property developers. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 21, 2019 10:15 AM IST
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Workers sorting plastic at a factory in Dharavi. “Dharavi is the beating heart of Mumbai... The government wants to grab it,” says liquid soap manufacturer Ashraf Sheikh who recently went on an eight-day hunger strike over the redevelopment. Estimates vary but between 700,000 and one million people cram into tiny homes on the 520-acre site; hundreds queue up to use public washrooms. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

Workers sorting plastic at a factory in Dharavi. “Dharavi is the beating heart of Mumbai... The government wants to grab it,” says liquid soap manufacturer Ashraf Sheikh who recently went on an eight-day hunger strike over the redevelopment. Estimates vary but between 700,000 and one million people cram into tiny homes on the 520-acre site; hundreds queue up to use public washrooms. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 21, 2019 10:15 AM IST
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Sacks of plastic waste arranged outside a factory in Dharavi. The area defies most Western notions of a slum; Dharavi is a hive of economic activity and boasts an estimated annual turnover of more than a billion dollars. Industries include pottery, leather and textiles -- about 5,000 businesses operate from around 15,000 one-room workshops, according to estimates. Masses of rubbish are also separated there for recycling. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

Sacks of plastic waste arranged outside a factory in Dharavi. The area defies most Western notions of a slum; Dharavi is a hive of economic activity and boasts an estimated annual turnover of more than a billion dollars. Industries include pottery, leather and textiles -- about 5,000 businesses operate from around 15,000 one-room workshops, according to estimates. Masses of rubbish are also separated there for recycling. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 21, 2019 10:15 AM IST
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A worker in a cloth dyeing factory in Dharavi. Mumbai officials first tried to redevelop Dharavi two decades ago. Several attempts failed due to the difficulty of moving vast numbers of slum dwellers who depend on informal work to survive. The state government is trying again and recently put the redevelopment out to tender. A Dubai-based developer backed by royal families emerged as the highest bidder. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

A worker in a cloth dyeing factory in Dharavi. Mumbai officials first tried to redevelop Dharavi two decades ago. Several attempts failed due to the difficulty of moving vast numbers of slum dwellers who depend on informal work to survive. The state government is trying again and recently put the redevelopment out to tender. A Dubai-based developer backed by royal families emerged as the highest bidder. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 21, 2019 10:15 AM IST
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The ambitious scheme, projected to cost around $4 billion, will include demolishing tens of thousands of dilapidated slum houses and replacing them with several hundred towers up to 30 storeys high. Around 70,000 families could be eligible for free apartments around 300 square-foot in size “that will be as good as any in Dubai or Singapore,” according to Nilang Shah, CEO of SecLink Group, the master developer. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

The ambitious scheme, projected to cost around $4 billion, will include demolishing tens of thousands of dilapidated slum houses and replacing them with several hundred towers up to 30 storeys high. Around 70,000 families could be eligible for free apartments around 300 square-foot in size “that will be as good as any in Dubai or Singapore,” according to Nilang Shah, CEO of SecLink Group, the master developer. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 21, 2019 10:15 AM IST
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A potter works in his house in Dharavi. “We have been living and working here for over 100 years... You’ll have to shoot us before building your towers here,” says potter Mepa Gudiya, who exports earthenware across India and abroad. “Lives will be enhanced without destroying their social fabric. It can be a model for the world,” Shah told AFP in a telephone interview from Dubai. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

A potter works in his house in Dharavi. “We have been living and working here for over 100 years... You’ll have to shoot us before building your towers here,” says potter Mepa Gudiya, who exports earthenware across India and abroad. “Lives will be enhanced without destroying their social fabric. It can be a model for the world,” Shah told AFP in a telephone interview from Dubai. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 21, 2019 10:15 AM IST
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Newly made pots kept for drying in Dharavi, Fifteen-year-old Muskan Sheikh is excited by the prospect. She lives in a bathroom-less one-room house with five relatives sleeping head-to-toe. Many Dharavi residents are sceptical, however. They would welcome new homes with private bathrooms and running water but worry that the intrinsic nature of Dharavi, where people live and work out of the same room, will disappear. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

Newly made pots kept for drying in Dharavi, Fifteen-year-old Muskan Sheikh is excited by the prospect. She lives in a bathroom-less one-room house with five relatives sleeping head-to-toe. Many Dharavi residents are sceptical, however. They would welcome new homes with private bathrooms and running water but worry that the intrinsic nature of Dharavi, where people live and work out of the same room, will disappear. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 21, 2019 10:15 AM IST
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Dharavi originated as a swamp and grew rapidly in the late 19th century as migrants moved in to work in expanding British-era factories. Dharavi is located in the centre of the coastal megapolis, close to the Bandra Kurla Complex business district, airport, a main railway station and a crucial waterway, making it appealing to developers. SecLink estimates that the revenue potential from the free sale of scores of towers is $15 billion. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

Dharavi originated as a swamp and grew rapidly in the late 19th century as migrants moved in to work in expanding British-era factories. Dharavi is located in the centre of the coastal megapolis, close to the Bandra Kurla Complex business district, airport, a main railway station and a crucial waterway, making it appealing to developers. SecLink estimates that the revenue potential from the free sale of scores of towers is $15 billion. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 21, 2019 10:15 AM IST
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“Unfortunately it’s the interests of the real estate lobby that is guiding decisions about Dharavi’s development,” said Kalpana Sharma, author of “Rediscovering Dharavi”. Authorities are soon expected to survey Dharavi to determine how many families settled in before 2000, making them eligible for free homes. “We’re afraid that it will just become another high-rise area and we’ll all be put in one tower,” said petroleum businessman Fakhrul Islam. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

“Unfortunately it’s the interests of the real estate lobby that is guiding decisions about Dharavi’s development,” said Kalpana Sharma, author of “Rediscovering Dharavi”. Authorities are soon expected to survey Dharavi to determine how many families settled in before 2000, making them eligible for free homes. “We’re afraid that it will just become another high-rise area and we’ll all be put in one tower,” said petroleum businessman Fakhrul Islam. (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 21, 2019 10:15 AM IST
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Work will then commence, according to Shah who predicts that all slum dwellers will be rehoused within five years. Residents are still to be convinced though. “We’re not against redevelopment,” said Malik Abdullah, 55, owner of a plastics recycling unit. “But it was us who turned this creek into an industrial powerhouse. If businesses are taken away then we will be left with nothing.” (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

Work will then commence, according to Shah who predicts that all slum dwellers will be rehoused within five years. Residents are still to be convinced though. “We’re not against redevelopment,” said Malik Abdullah, 55, owner of a plastics recycling unit. “But it was us who turned this creek into an industrial powerhouse. If businesses are taken away then we will be left with nothing.” (Punit Paranjpe / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUN 21, 2019 10:15 AM IST
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