Good job bringing this to light. People won't realise how huge the problem is and municipalities are woefully ill equipped to...
Agreed; mining can never be sustainable, but then how do you get the metals to make all the things you need in the course of...
Very good piece.
Dharavi is not just a slum. It is an economic hub churning out a variety of goods, from pottery to branded snacks. It also provides essential services, like recycling waste. But it is all in the informal sector that gives it a competitive edge. It is also why the government does not recognize it. Instead of sops, this SEZ is getting marching orders
"My great grandfather Bhagwan Poona came here from a village in Gujarat in 1918. Since then we have been here. This is our fourth generation in Dharavi and we know no other place. But for the past one year or so we are hearing rumours of redevelopment by private developers. Government says it will give us free 225-sq ft flats but do you think potters can work out of such small flats? At present, we live in a 500-sq ft double-storey house in which upper floors are used to dry pots," says Arvind B Wadel, a potter in Dharavi's kumbharwada. Pottery is a family business. Wadel's wife and two daughters help him make pots.
Wadel's is one of the 2,000 families in Dharavi's kumbharwadas--and most of them echo his predicament. Govindbhai BParmar's forefathers moved to Mumbai around the same time as Wadel's. He lives and works in Dharavi with his family of eight. "How can we do business in a 225-sq ft area? The bhatti in which we bake pots alone occupies a bigger area, forget the first and second floor of our house where pots are dried," he says.
Dharavi is today known as the recycling capital of India--dealing with waste from all over the world. Almost everything gets recycled here, from toothbrush and refrigerators to polybags, metals, cardboard and paper.
Soon all this will change because Dharavi's recycling industry is located in an area notified as sector 1 under the state government's redevelopment plan. There is no place for the 'polluting' recycling industry in this sector. Dharavi's recycling business is also illegal as no unit/godown has a trade licence. "The government does not want recycling to take place, therefore, in spite of our repeated demands for trade licences, these have never been issued to us. We are responsible for keeping Mumbai clean but rather than rewarding us and upgrading our units, the government is throwing us out of the city. I am not sure whether Mumbai can ever become Shanghai, but it will surely become a large Dharavi if we are not allowed to work," says an angry recycler.
There are 4,000-5,000 recycling units and warehouses in Dharavi, each occupying 1,000 sq ft (93 sq m) to 3,000 sq ft (279 sq m). On an average, 15 people work in a unit or warehouse. Each day 4,000 tonnes of waste is recycled, with a daily turnover of over Rs 1 crore, says Naushad Khan, chairperson of Dharavi Recyclers Association.
In 1970s and 1980s when tanneries in Dharavi were closing down, people started diversifying into other occupations. Food processing emerged as a favoured option. At present, there are over 5,000 such units in Dharavi that make a variety of products such as chakli, farsan, namkeen and wafers. A food-processing unit usually employs five or six workers. They range from 150 sq ft (14 sq m) to over 1,000 sq ft (93 sq m), usually with a mezzanine floor. Some of the best brands of processed food are actually made in Dharavi, but almost the entire industry is illegal because it does not have the mandatory food-processing order licence.
"Dharavi's food processing industry has a cutting edge as the cost of production is low. But we are in the unorganised sector because we cannot meet the stringent conditions specified under various food laws. This means that we are vulnerable to raids and have to bribe officials around Diwali to carry on with our business," says a member of the Bombay South Indian Adi-Dravida Mahajan Sangh, whose members are mostly engaged in food processing.