Friday, 15 May 2009

Open questions

The city is running restlessly, but where is it going? Is it going to Shangai? Maybe it will eventually do that, but at the moment everyone is rushing just to survive. New buildings mushroom from the slums, but who is going to buy the pretty flats? The city is growing “tridimensionally”, but there is not space for the citizens; maybe the 50-60% of people living in Mumbai are not citizens, what are they? They are the poor. And where are they going to sleep? In the pavements, in the roofs, in and under the cars, wherever there is a square metre left.

In the middle of all the noise there is Dharavi. What is Dharavi? It is unplanned growth with codified rules; it is slums and pretty village; it is mix and homogeneity, but above all it is the representation of the resilience. People that have been so long forgotten, not only survived, but created a new city; and now that part of the city has been repainted and decorated it has been claimed back.

It is very hard to establish the balance that the future plans for Dharavi need in order to benefit both, its residents and the city. Before the visit to Dharavi I thought that the new vertical density was the answer, but now I consider this is a partial answer. Dharavi is diverse and its redevelopment has to follow the same pattern. To divide the area in sectors can be useful, but it should not be done with straight lines. Reflections on conservation of historical parts of Dharavi, on the strong links between economic activities and public spaces of transit, and finally reflections on the city claims make me think of a series of diverse strategies integrated in an upgraded service network.

Focusing on Chambda Bazaar, it has to be said it is a valuable area that should be maintain and improved; the way this area can pay back the city may be its own economy restated in a redefined formal context. The institutionalisation of Dharavi businesses has to be studied further more in order to maximise the benefits for all. While some person is making numbers, Dharavi residents are still rushing and some of them are waiting for the desired and dreaded redevelopment.


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