Mumbai and the 5th Red Kingfisher

Mumbai is filthy and unhygienic beyond the terms we in the West have reference to.  There is a canal running through the Dharavi slum that is bubbling with chemical reactions. That sewer runs directly into the Arabian sea. My daughter, a chemist, joked that there were probably life forms there we have not discovered as yet.

The authorities are not powerless but priorities are not with the poor. They are there to please the higher castes and generate business. The poor, though industrious will always remain poor.

The trick with any business is to get the stuff you market cheap enough so you can sell it and make a profit. You can dress it up in all kinds of language, fair-trade, sourced from renewables resources, organic, etc but the bottom line is that there is a minor difference in costs v turnover for large a company to comply with regulations. Infact they have turned it (the regulations) into a marketing strategy. Also because they’re big companies their buying is power is so great it drives down the cost to them of the raw materials. Small people can’t compete.

The slum is not a ghetto. It’s a thriving community capable of sustaining itself. Taxes and rent are paid, no big drug issues, violence is low, and apart from some drunks (who hasn’t got them) it works. They even have a temple that both Muslims and Hindus share. (Hear up Morocco with your ‘no non Muslims allowed’ sign outside your mosques.) It’s a tolerant society within its walls and its challenges our preconceived views of slums. The Dharavi slum recycles 70% of the plastic and some other toxic waste from Mumbai. But its all done by hand. It will never be enough for the amount waste created. Mumbai needs a massive recycling plant but that simply is not sexy. The view of the slum I had been positive but the fact is that there is abject squalor in India. The authorities and the wealthy would prefer to keep those poor very poor indeed.

I did not take pictures in the slum. Photography is not allowed. They do not want to become “a Zoo”. One day though I might go back with our guide Meze and do some snaps. Top guy.




Fumigation of an apartment block

Fumigation of an apartment block



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