Saturday, January 5, 2008
More than garbage, it's the pollution in Mumbai that is most upsetting. I am having trouble breathing. We toured the Dharavi slum today after a thoughtful introduction from some activists who have gotten the residents involved in the government/private investor effort to put up high rises on the now-valuable land. Three train stations provide service to the area. Even hedge funds hvae been talking with activists about the investment risks! What surprised us most was the sophistication of the place; in fact, it is full of important and complex cottage industries, from leather tanneries and pottery manufacturing to plastic recycling. About 70% of the people are self-employed. There are restaurants, people have cell phones, there are schools and the kids have uniforms -- but don't get me wrong. It's the largest slum in Asia and the government is not providing sewage, toilets or other basic needs, and some of these dwellers only have a plastic roof over their head every night that they roll up before going off barefoot to a kiln that spews black soot. Sadness, anger, guilt, hope. Experienced lots of emotions for a day.