Integrating Informality: A Case for an Informal Settlement in Mumbai

Rohan Varma
The Netherlands

This project was produced by me while I was a student at the Delft University of Technology under the mentorship of Prof. Dick van Gameren, and it attempted to find an appropriate alternative to the current model of slum rehabilitation that is in reality further slumming the city.

Mumbai as many are aware, is home to an estimated 10 million squatters – about 60 percent of its population giving it the unceremonious title of being the global capital of slumming. It's vast informal settlements have grown in pockets throughout the city with little access to adequate housing, infrastructure and urban resources. In fact, even though these informal settlements account for over half of the city’s population they reside in just a little under 10 percent of the land – resulting in incredibly high densities with little precedent found anywhere else in the world.

This has in turn prompted several responses in recent years from both the government as well as from civil society, that largely rely on solely increasing the supply of affordable housing. The current model for slum rehabilitation in the city enables private developers to re-house slums in vertical tenements on existing plots in exchange for land and construction rights that can be sold in the open market for enormous profits. In other words, this scheme suggests to further increase the densities found in Mumbai’s slums by effectively forcing them to reside in just 5 percent of the land - half the area they live in now!

What many of these policies crucially ignore is that the issue is simply not only about supplying 'X' number of affordable units, but one of exclusion – which is a process we must reverse. In order to do that, we must begin to recognize informal settlements not as isolated islands of poverty – but as valid parts of the city that need to be integrated within their larger contexts. Through research and analysis of an informal settlement in the city's financial district, the project attempts to use a series of design tools and strategies that not only rehabilitates the existing slum dwellers, but helps integrate them with the cities that lie beyond their borders.

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