Build, Don't Bulldoze, Slums to Reduce Poverty

Indian journalist Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar examines the opportunities that informal settlements provide to the poor and unskilled for ascending economic and social ladders.

1 minute read

May 7, 2013, 1:00 PM PDT

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


"Some people see slums as hubs of sub-human existence and humiliation. But it is necessary to see beyond the surface filth," says Aiyar. "Dharavi in Mumbai has long been called the world’s biggest slum, with 6 lakh (600,000) people crammed into 175 hectares of swamps. Far from being a hub of despair, it is now Mumbai’s biggest industrial center, humming with activity after all its famed textile mills have closed. Dharavi has 15,000 one-roomed factories, producing $600 million in goods and services."

"This has an implication that will make many blanch — we must have more slums," he argues. "These are the entry points of the poor into urban havens of opportunity."

"This is not a tale of despair and humiliation. It is an inspiring story of poor people who have risen through grit and determination, seizing urban opportunities. It’s another matter that the government has been woefully remiss in providing infrastructure and social services. But these are government failures everywhere, not just in slums."

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