The Transformation of Mumbai as Mega City: A Case Study of Slums and Environmental Degradation

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Over time, cities across the world have grown in population size at rapid rates. This expansion has introduced a term: ‘Mega Cities’. It is accepted that a mega city is an urban area that has a population of more than 10 million (UN, 2018). Mumbai is one such example. This study examines the huge expansion of illegal slum colonies in Mumbai in recent decades, especially after the adoption of neoliberal economic reforms. A significant characteristic of urbanisation in India is that there has been a sharp rise in the population of a few mega cities (Shafizadeh-Moghadam & Helbich, 2015; 2013; Rode, 2009). The article focuses on slums in one of the top Indian metro cities in terms of increase of slum colonies and summarises the migration dynamics in terms of the migrants’ choice of destination. It has emerged in recent years that Mumbai, as a Mega City, has witnessed a higher rate of population growth and volume of slums (see Sarkar and Bardhan, 2020; Ramanath & Ebrahim, 2010).

The urbanisation process in Mumbai is closely integrated with the housing crisis and informality in settlement growth. Slums have emerged as a significant settlement form, catering to the housing demand of a large section of the population of Mumbai, primarily the urban poor (Bardhan et al., 2015; Desai, 2005; O'Hare, Abbott, & Barke, 1998). In this study, the authors argue that the housing and land policies implemented to solve the problem of slums in Mumbai have actually provided the momentum to the undercurrents that fuel further proliferation of informality.

Mumbai has been the preferred destination for migration, over Delhi, Kolkata, and Chennai, and this is due to the availability of low skilled jobs, cheap transportation, and cost of living in the peripheries (Shaikh, 2019; Gaikwad & Nellis, 2017). This paper examines the ongoing problems of drinking water supply and sanitation in slums, i.e. informal settlements in Mumbai. Even though the government has taken some limited measures through the ‘sanitation programme’ and delivered toilet blocks as a solution to the huge sanitation problems in the slums, in this paper, the authors will suggest a comprehensive approach to policy infrastructure, technical infrastructure, and fiscal policy intervention in sanitation rather than leaving it to market forces. Specific attention will be focussed on Dharavi which is known as one of the largest slums in Asia.

Keywords: Dharavi, Housing, Free Market Policy, Mega City, Migrants, Mumbai, Public Policy, Sanitation, Slums, Urban Growth.


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Sarkar, A., & Bardhan, R. (2020). Socio-physical liveability through socio-spatiality in low-income resettlement archetypes – A case of slum rehabilitation housing in Mumbai, India. Cities, 105, 102840-102840.

Shafizadeh-Moghadam, H., & Helbich, M. (2015). Spatiotemporal variability of urban growth factors: A global and local perspective on the megacity of Mumbai. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 35, 187-198.

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From the international workshop the following peer reviewed publication was produced: 

Halsall, J., P. and Siddiqui, K. (2024) The Transformation of Mumbai as Megacity: A Case Study of Slums and Environmental Degradation, Special Issue: Megacities of the Global South in the 2020's, Global Built Environment Review (GBER), pp. 40-64, ISBN 978-984-96923-5-5. 

Period16 Jul 2022
Event titleWorkshop on Growth Transformations, Contested/Negotiated Spaces & Changing Liveability: Projecting Megacities of the Global South in the 2020s
Event typeWorkshop
LocationDhaka, BangladeshShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational