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What challenges are Dharavi facing today?

Written by: Sofia Mareque

One of the main challenges Dharavi faces is its population density. A million people are crammed into one square mile in the slum, and with even more people migrating to the slum for economic growth, they find themselves settling further and further on the outskirts. The new arrivals set up next to water pipes and wasteland that are not suitable for living, and come monsoon season, a lot of their makeshift homes will be swept away. The population density has also proven to be cause for concern with Covid-19. Such a high number of workers living in such close quarters in unsanitary conditions has resulted in Dharavi becoming a hot spot for the virus.

Photo: PTI

In addition, Dharavi’s environmental challenges are monumental. They have limited access to quality drinking water. With fewer pipelines in the slum that operate for only two hours a day, slum dwellers line up for a limited supply of water. Moreover, a study revealed that 77% of households in Dharavi receive contaminated water. Contaminated water has serious health consequences, leading many inhabitants to contract water borne diseases from levels of dissolved solids, nitrates, arsenic, lead, and disease-causing bacteria present in the water. In the worst cases, they get infected with cholera, jaundice, typhoid and diarrhoea which can all have deadly effects.

Not only do Dharavi’s residents have to deal with contaminated water, but they are also burdened with serious air pollution. Heavy industry, traffic and construction throughout Mumbai contribute to the dangerously high levels of Nitrous Oxides in the air. These oxides can cause asthma and bronchitis in Dharavi’s dwellers. Its small industries such as house tanneries, recycling units, pottery kilns, and plastic washing units also contribute to worsening the air quality in Dharavi. In addition, illegal waste incineration exudes thick fumes of toxic smoke. In the face of Covid-19, a disease which attacks the respiratory system, Dharavi’s citizens are thus even more vulnerable to severe symptoms after having their lungs continuously exposed to the polluted air.

Moreover, children play in open sewers, and there is approximately 1 toilet per 1440 people to share, hence many inhabitants turn to the river as a substitute. Dharavi also has poor drainage systems, and the annual monsoons bring seasonal diseases. Overall, the health and hygiene conditions in Dharavi are perilous. As a result, the life expectancy in Dharavi is 7 years lower than the national Indian average, 4000 cases of various types of disease are reported everyday such as diarrhoea, malaria, and tuberculosis, and the hospitals treat 3000 patients a day, many of whom are children. While it is a vibrant community of merchants, manufacturers, and artisans, Dharavi faces many environmental and health challenges which are only exacerbated by the spread of Covid-19. That is why the NGO Dharavi Diaries needs as much help as they can get, so they can feed workers while limiting the spread of the disease. They’ve been working tirelessly to reach out to the daily wagers and community members during the pandemic. Your donation to Dharavi Diaries will ensure that families will be fed and kept safe from the virus.


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