Recycling and Redevelopment

BBC’s One Planet focuses on Dharavi, a Mumbai slum that is the largest in Asia, and the thriving recycling industry that resides within its streets. With the “Vision Mumbai” plan to revitalize the city by 2013, however, shelters in Dharavi will be demolished to make way for high-rises. The redevelopment project will have a ripple effect on how the currently unorganized, but effective, recycling system in the city works.

The case presents a lot of paradoxes. On the one hand, redevelopment is a step forward because proper infrastructure can be built. On the other hand, the slum dwellers will probably be displaced and the government will most likely fail to properly rehabilitate them into new homes. Additionally, there is the paradox of the recycling industry. With the demolition of Dharavi comes the demolition of an active informal economy. In the article, slum residents claim that waste will now lie in the streets of Mumbai, while other environmentalists say that destroying the informal economy is good because it paves the way for proper recycling infrastructure.

These themes of displacement, rehabilitation, and restructuring informal economies are quite common in India. The challenge comes in finding a balance for all stakeholders and working with (or around?) government policies. New and innovative ways forward are needed since current solutions do not provide satisfying outcomes – especially, as in this case, for more marginalized populations.

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