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Developing the Informal

Master of Architecture,Year 2.

University of Strathclyde,UK.


Dharavi is one of the most talked about redevelopment projects in India. This topic gives rise to a lot of issues that need to be addresses not only for the betterment of the city but mostly for the people who live there. The living conditions of Dharavi are far worse than one can imagine. Although there are several organisations that have tried to propose a number of projects, they all seem to face rejection for a number of reasons. There is a surprising lack of knowledge and disclosure about the special quality of these settlements in relation to their culture, economic and social needs. My academic interest in the topic stems from the blind eye that is being turned to the needs of the people. This research will help understand the major needs of the people residing in Dharavi. The gathered knowledge will help provide them with houses that feel like home along with better standards of living.


Dharavi is the second largest slum in Asia. Spread over 550 acres in the heart of Mumbai it is known to house over 59,000 which makes it one of the most populated places on earth. Dharavi has an active informal economy in which numerous household enterprises employ most of the slum residents. These may seem like small scale industries, but it not only defines the people of Dharavi but also the city. The living conditions of the people of Dharavi is not by choice but a cause of lack of amenities, poverty and non-acceptance in the society. Slums are known to be informal settlements built by the people who cannot afford a proper house. The area lacks sanitation, clean water to drink, electricity and other basic facilities.

Situated in the one of the most expensive areas of Mumbai, Dharavi is known to be high demand among consultants for economic gains. There have been a number of projects that have been projects that have been proposed but non have seemed to work out even though it is one of the biggest concerns of the city. Dharavi in particular has prevailed and resisted most of the redevelopment and up gradation schemes.  The residents of Dharavi do understand the need for change and are willing to co-operate as long as their needs and demands are considered. The people of Dharavi have been living in such close settlements for such a long time that sense of community is very important for the people. The new projects proposed have a primary aim of gaining profit which results in the following issues, the proposal of high-rise buildings for the existing residents which is not acceptable as they do not get the concept of it. Secondly, the consultants or buildings do not promise rehousing for every resident. This leads to a lot of people becoming homeless and the displacement of the poor confiscation of the land for increasing social and economic demands. Another factor to consider is that the people fear that the loss of space means that the small-scale industries that provide for the livelihood of the people will shut down.

"It is our dream that by the time we celebrate the 75th year of independent India, all the slums are replaced by cemented homes"


-Narendra Modi (Current Prime minister of India.)

"A slum is not a chaotic collection of structures, it is a dynamic collection of individuals who have found out how to survive in the most adverse of circumstances."


-Kalpana Sharma (in her book - Rediscovering Dharavi.)

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An illustration to show the relation between Brighter side of Mumbai to Dharavi with a part of Dharavi as a redevelopment site


1. Existing Condition Industries at higher domination and carries no function where people from other parts of city come here.


2. Existing Condition No proper link between the site, Dharavi and Bright side of Mumbai.


3. Proposed Design Industries to be lowered down and Commercial and housing to be increased.


4. Proposed Design The marginalisation would be removed  as it would reform as a better place to live in and therefore would drive in a-lot of people to Dharavi through the site.

1) The industrial and commercial stretch leads to employment to a number of people in Dharavi but at the same time it is very harmful for the environment.

2) The natural scope towards the creek would have been positive if only fresh water was allowed to the creek and not grey water. 

3) The Nalla is an important layer for drainage services but due to the bad maintenance it has just become a transporting medium of waste to the creek.

4) The main road connection is good in this zone but none of the interior roads are connected well hence creating a drawback.


Existing infrastructure One of the major issue that have been address is the standard of living of the people of Dharavi. The main factors that have contributed to that is the lack of materials for inftastructure. currently people live in houses that are made up of waste or thrown away material like rags for walls or broken corrugate sheets or plastic sheets for roofing. These informal settlements are highly unsafe to live in. As these structures have not stable base they are at a risk of of collapsing. Mumbai receives rain in abundance, this leads to a number of families losing their homes every year due to flooding.


Small scale industry 

Despite the lack of amenities in Dharavi there are several industries that run in the area. A number of there are in fact run in people's homes due to lack of space. Pottery, textile industry, washing of clothes, manufacturing of machine parts, the leather industry, and recycling of waste are among the top industries that run in Dharavi. 

Dharavi is a hub for small sale industries (unorganised sectors such as leather industry, waste recycling industry, etc) and exports goods across the globe with an estimated annual turnover of around 1 million dollars. It has approximately 5,000 business entities, with 15,000 in house single room factories for production. 

According to residents of Dharavi, 60% of Mumbai's segregated waste comes to Dharavi for processing, indicating the vital role of waste recycling and processing units of Dharavi in maintaining and managing Mumbai's solid waste management landscape. They are not only managing the waste, but they are making big money out of it and generation employment as well. 

Dharavi in home to some of 30,000 rag pickers - scavengers who find and sort recyclable scraps from the city's garbage dumps. There are about 15,000 factories dedicated to recycling and sorting of waste in Mumbai. Dharavi employs about 25,000 people dedicated to this work. About 80% of Mumbai's solid waste is recycled and given new life within Dharavi. The people it self work as a recycling machine without which the city of Mumbai would choke in its piled-up trash. 

Aim - To design a strategic framework that not only incorporates the existing socio-economic pattern of the informal settlement but also leads to a sustainable redevelopment project.    

Strategic framework   +   socio-economic pattern   =   sustainability    

The aim of this research is to develop a strategic framework that contribute to help maintain the socio-economic value in the informal settlements of Dharavi while improving its standard of living. This framework would be a renovated guideline with incorporation of new technologies that will help create a new mode of production of space in both residential and social aspects in Dharavi. 

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Site plan 

Dharavi is one of the largest slums in India. Even with the lack of facilities it happens to be a home to a number of small scale industries. The leather industry is one of them. From cleaning the hides to making leather goods, is all done in Dharavi. The process involved in the making of these products involves a number of steps. these steps are process that involve a number hazardous gases to be let out into the environment. In the current situation these process take place in or very close to the homes of the residents of the slum, due to the lack provision of space and amenities.

The project aims at relocating this small scale industry in a way that the work place is accessible to the residents but also with a safe environment. The plan tries to keep the flow of the industries work process intact.


Exterior views

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View from B

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View from C


Plan for Leather industry 

Plan for Leather industry 

Elevations for Leather industry 


Section AA'

Sectional - elevation from AA'

Internal view of the Leather industry 

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