Redeveloping one of Mumbai's 'slums'
This work explored metropolitan urban development plans and visions aimed at upgrading and/or redeveloping informal settlements in Mumbai. I examined the case of Dharavi, a neighbourhood often touted as 'Asia's largest slum'. Investigations were grounded in policy and discourse analysis, as well as interviews and focus groups with residents associations, local activists, and community leaders.
The purpose of the project was to assess the potential for local residents in Dharavi to participate in the redevelopment of their neighbourhoods. I found that participation in the planning process was being undermined by wider speculative pressures to open up Mumbai's 'informal' spaces to investors and developers.
'Global visions', local disruptions
Future city visions proposed a 'slum free' Mumbai by 2020. The 'Dharavi Redevelopment Project', a plan to redevelop the 500 acre community, would involve a market-led approach, focusing on producing high quality housing and retail space. Such developments would benefit a certain bracket of consumers, but would simultaneously destroy local communities and dislocate most of Dharavi's residents.
Overlooking hyper-productive, multi-use spaces
The proposal to redevelop Dharavi fails to appreciate its significance as a ‘hyper-productive’ space within Mumbai. Later work with the URBZ research and action group demonstrated that Dharavi is a symbolic representation of the efficiency that can be achieved through heavily ’mixed-use’ spaces. This concept has been further developed and advanced by Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava, founders of the Institute of Urbanology.
Erosion of property rights, citizenship
Mumbai's aspirations to become a 'global city' have eroded the rights of the urban poor. The participatory role of Mumbai’s slum dwellers in the drawn out delivery of the city’s ‘global vision’ has been undermined by the same global pressures that have demanded that Dharavi be ‘redeveloped’.