Virus spreading shadow across mumbai, with over 42% living in slums

In 1898, colonial authorities created the Bombay Improvement trust on the heels of a devasting plague

Virus spreading shadow across mumbai, with over 42% living in slums
slum area in mumbai

In 1898, colonial authorities created the Bombay Improvement trust on the heels of a devasting plague to upgrade living conditions in the city. The trust opened up congested neighbourhoods, built housing for workers, and laid down strict rules for ventilation and sanitation. Their measures shaped modern Bombay. Amidst a new pandemic, it's clear the lessons of the last have been long forgotten. The coronavirus that entered the city largely through its elite is now a threat to its most vulnerable, many of whom live in conditions not too distant from those of the 1890s.

In Recent data shows by the times of india the wards with the most cases are mostly those with the largest slum populations(Dharavi, Kurla, Govandi) or highest population densities (Byculla, Worli). Meanwhile the outbreak is beginning to slow down in some affluent areas that saw the first cases- like parts of D ward- as the middle- class have sealed themselves into apartments and gated communities.

The spillover from highrises to slums isn't surprising- 42% of Mumbaikars live in slums, as per the 2011 census. When other low-income housing are included, up to 57% families live in one room homes where physical distancing is impossible. Public housing, sanitation, and health infrastructure for the poor has been largely stagnant in the past few decades. Despite high-profile programs, there is a 1 lakh shortfall in community toilets and an estimaated 11 lakh shortfall in affordable homes.

Dharavi is the hotspot of the epidemic but the decadesold settlementis relatively well supported by NGOs and the municipality. By comparison, slums in the sprawling suburbs of Malad, Bhandup and Govandi have fewer resources and get less attention.

Industries like textile mills once provided housing for their labour, he notes. But informalisation of work put paid to that social contract. And advancements in medicine and technology have led to a separation of health and housing. Exhaust fans and airconditioners allow apartments to be built closer together, with less ventilation, Ghorpade points out. Indeed, as an expert assessment of a 2018 TB outbreak in a slum rehabilitation complex in Govandi found, some of the new working-class housing is more congested and poorly ventilated than even slums.

“Over time, we have lost the understanding of humane habitat, "says Ghorpade. And now, like Bombay 120 years ago, “we face a health bomb."


News source: Timesofindia