A report confirms what residents suspected: living conditions in the city’s ‘resettlement’ blocks are little better than the slums they replaced

... a new study has found high levels of TB due to poor ventilation and overcrowding in some of the blocks.

The findings confirm what many Mumbaikars have suspected: living conditions in these resettlement blocks are sometimes little better than the shantytowns they replaced.

“The houses are planned in such a way that they are going to lead to illness,” says Dr Ravikant Singh of Doctors for You, the medical NGO that led the study. “They are literally designed for death.”

The report, which studied three housing projects through surveys and modelling experiments, found that 8-10% of the residents in the denser, less light-filled and more poorly ventilated complexes had tuberculosis – compared with 1% of residents in a better ventilated project. Even within a building, the risk of TB declined on higher, airier floors.

The government-funded report blamed the relaxation of building norms for slum-rehousing projects. The result: too many people in buildings stacked too close together, with poorly designed windows that residents keep shut, and lower floors with little natural light or air circulation. 

The link to TB would not have surprised civic authorities a century ago. Disease outbreaks in 19th-century cities led to the birth of modern urban planning as reformers, still new to germ theory, blamed crowding, poor ventilation and sanitation. Industrial Bombay, with its booming textile mills and migrant workers, was no different.