Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dharavi's "Makeover Man"

Ugh...I just caught a story on News Hour by Jim Lehrer about the vision of urban designer Mukesh Mehta (left) to redevelop Dharavi. Makes my stomach churn. This developing story may soon be a perfect example of urban design gone beastly and apocalyptic in its good intentions (have we learned absolutely nothing from Urban Renewal??). As Prakash Apte aptly states:

"Dharavi pulsates with intense economic activity. Its population has achieved a unique informal "self-help" urban development over the years without any external aid. It is a humming economic engine. The residents, though bereft of housing amenities, have been able to lift themselves out of poverty by establishing thousands of successful businesses. A study by Center for Environmental Planning & Technology indicates that Dharavi currently has close to 5,000 industrial units, producing textiles, pottery and leather, and performing services like recycling, printing, and steel fabrication."

Despite its notoriety, Dharavi is an ecosystem of businesses that sustains its residents, and one wonders how exatcly Mr. Mehta, launcher of the Clinton Global Initiative's effort to achieve a "slum free world", intends to sustain those businesses with high rise tenament apartments. Beneath the patronistic patois of "slummology" of the CGI's pseudo-think-tank initiative slinks a quiet, deadly act of state terrorism. You simply can't replace or replicate these precious resources in regulated land use zones. Dharavi's mixed residential and small industry pattern is what helps sustain this ecosystem and allow it to thrive in an critical area so close to the precious commecial links in the center city.

Dharavi, originally uploaded by priyam_dhar.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

I've enjoyed reading the blog Airoots, which has spent a lot of time focusing on Dharavi. Makes me wish I could visit, before it's too late.