Waste not, want not in the £700m slum

Dan McDougall reports from the chaos and filth of Dharavi in Mumbai, where a recycling industry is helping thousands claw a way out of poverty.

But Dharavi remains a land of recycling opportunity for many rural Indians. The average household in Dharavi now earns between 3,000 and 15,000 rupees a month (£40-£200), well above agricultural wage levels. The new money through recycling has in effect spawned a new slum gentry. Certain corners of Dharavi have even gone upmarket with bars, beauty parlours and clothing boutiques. Last week a major bank opened the slum's first ATM.

But the future of the slum is uncertain. The government has provisionally approved a plan called 'Vision Mumbai' - to create a world-class city by 2013. But internationally renowned architect Charles Correa, who has worked in the city for 50 years, says: 'There's very little vision with this plan. They're more like hallucinations.' Demolition work has begun and police are forcing out inhabitants, leaving thousands homeless. Author and architect Neera Adarkar is among hundreds of activists who see Vision Mumbai as impractical and inhumane because it ignores both the industry and hope of the slum.

'Why wreck the homes and lives of people who have built the city and lived in it for decades?' he said. 'Because from your luxury high-rise apartment you don't want the humiliation of India's poor in your line of vision as you make your money and succeed. Forcing them out is the only option. You simply can't wish them away.'