Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Orangi is not Dharavi!

A recent report, compiled by Mumbai's Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation with assistance from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), claims that while Dharavi, the setting for the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire movie, has 57,000 families living in overcrowded huts with poor sanitation, Orangi on the outskirts of Karachi is home to more than a million people living in poverty. This report has been splashed across Indian and some Western news media without any independent confirmation of its content.

The fact is that Orangi is nothing like Dharavi in terms of the quality of its housing or the services available to its residents. This report appears to be nothing but a shameful attempt by Mumbai's municipality to hide its own inadequacies by diverting the attention of the world to the biggest city of India's neighbor and arch rival Pakistan. What is even more disturbing is how the UNDP has become a party to this misleading claim. This preposterous claim is also an insult to the memory of Dr. Akhtar Hamid Khan who organized Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) and tirelessly worked with the residents on self-help model to improve their lives.

Reacting to the report, Parveen Rehman, of the Orangi Pilot Project, told a reporter of the Telegraph that the word “slum” did not do justice to its hard-working people, who had developed their own welfare system.

“People are poor but they are not destitute, they’re working class. It’s one of the poorest settlements. People have arranged their own schools, clinics and water supply. They are a great example of people helping themselves.

Ms. Rahman is right in her assessment. Orangi is not really a slum today. But it started life as a 'kutchi abadi' or squatter settlement for the large influx of refugees in Karachi from East Pakistan (often mistakenly called Biharis) after the fall of Dhaka in early 1970s. It consists of an area larger than 25 square miles (versus 0.67 sq miles in Dharavi) with a population of over a million (versus over 700,000 residents of Dharavi). Most of Orangi's population increase in the last three decades has come from the growing rural to urban migration, particularly of ethnic Pushtoons from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Shanties have now grown into single or two level cement houses over the years and a large number of schools have been operating successfully, sending the poorest children into the best educational institutions of the city. A significant population of educated middle class has grown in Orangi. There are a number of small businesses and a cottage industry, started by budding entrepreneurs and funded by microfinance efforts in the area. The city of Karachi has built roads into Orangi to provide improved access for the residents. A hospital was built in the community in the 1990s. While Dharavi has only one toilet per 1440 residents and most of its residents use Mahim Creek, a local river, for urination and defecation, Orangi has an elaborate sanitation system built by its citizens. Under Orangi Pilot Project's guidance, between 1981 and 1993 Orangi residents installed sewers serving 72,070 of 94,122 houses. To achieve this, community members spent more than US$2 million of their own money, and OPP invested about US$150,000 in research and extension of new technologies. Orangi pilot project has been admired widely for its work with urban poor.

Like any other growing and poor urban neighborhood, Orangi has its share of problems. Pollution, crime, corruption and political volatility are just some of the issues confronting Orangi residents. A large underground economy flourishes in Ornagi.

While the deplorable motivations of the Mumbai city authorities are clear, it is the UNDP that is doing a great disservice to its mission by joining with the BMC in defaming the highly laudable work of the ordinary citizens of Orangi and the OPP in Karachi.

Here's a video clip of Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh saying "if there was a Nobel Prize for dirt and filth, India would win it hands down":

Related Links:

Informal Economy Estimates

Light a Candle, Do Not Curse Darkness

Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia

Orangi Pilot Project

Orangi Beats Dharavi

Can Slumdog's Success Improve Lives of Poor Children?

Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan


Anonymous said...

It is funny but sad. instead of helping slums people, they are spending money on p.r. so "shining India" image is not tainted.

Anonymous said...

some bureaucrat has fallen for propegenda and added to their web site as a matter of pride!!

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "some bureaucrat has fallen for propegenda and added to their web site as a matter of pride!!"

I noticed it, too. Isn't it dumb?

Anonymous said...

yes dumb. I suspect person making the modification was concentrating on "largest" and may be did not know western negative context of slum.

Danish said...

Danish here,
I am origin of orangi and now I am living in Dubai, I know very well to orangi rally its not a slum, orangi is a one of lovely please in the world, I have look different cities in the world but origin of orangi they have natural self talent for belt them self. Due to same political issue it has little shit, how ever it will be become a world talented please.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's traveler-blogger Sean-Paul Kelly talking about lack of sanitation in India:

In my opinion the filth, squalor and all around pollution indicates a marked lack of respect for India by Indians. I don't know how cultural the filth is, but it's really beyond anything I have ever encountered. At times the smells, trash, refuse and excrement are like a garbage dump. Right next door to the Taj Mahal was a pile of trash that smelled so bad, was so foul as to almost ruin the entire Taj experience. Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai to a lesser degree were so very polluted as to make me physically ill. Sinus infections, ear infection, bowels churning was an all to common experience in India. Dung, be it goat, cow or human fecal matter was common on the streets. In major tourist areas filth was everywhere, littering the sidewalks, the roadways, you name it. Toilets in the middle of the road, men urinating and defecating anywhere, in broad daylight. Whole villages are plastic bag wastelands. Roadsides are choked by it. Air quality that can hardly be called quality. Far too much coal and far to few unleaded vehicles on the road. The measure should be how dangerous the air is for one's health, not how good it is. People casually throw trash in the streets, on the roads. The only two cities that could be considered sanitary in my journey were Trivandrum--the capital of Kerala--and Calicut. I don't know why this is. But I can assure you that at some point this pollution will cut into India's productivity, if it already hasn't. The pollution will hobble India's growth path, if that indeed is what the country wants. (Which I personally doubt, as India is far too conservative a country, in the small 'c' sense.)

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Mail report today about the continuing misfortunes of Slumndog child star Rubina Ali:

She's the child star of one of last year's highest grossing movies, but Rubina Ali has been left homeless for the second time in a year.

The Slumdog Millionaire actress, 10, and her family had to sleep in the open air after their home in India was demolished to make way for a new railway line.

This comes despite the promise of a new luxury apartment paid for by a trust fund set up by the hit film's director Danny Boyle.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1239683/Slumdog-Millionaire-star-Rubina-Ali-sees-shanty-town-home-demolished-SECOND-time-year.html#ixzz0bI3YX8Oc

Riaz Haq said...

Indian star cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has joined "save water" campaign to help Mumbai deal with a severe water crisis, according to the BBC:

India's star batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, says he has renounced showers in favour of "bucket baths", as part of a campaign to save water in Mumbai.

A bucket bath is simply a bucket of water and a mug to wash oneself with. It uses much less water than a shower.

The international cricketer has made a short film urging the people of Mumbai to save water.

Mumbai has been facing severe water shortages and cuts of up to 30% have been imposed in most parts of the city.

The cricketer says his entire family has switched to bucket baths in an effort to save water. The 30-second film is expected to be aired in the coming weeks.

Water riots

Officials say that with Sachin Tendulkar starring in the film, its impact will be much greater.

A shower is said to consume more water than any other daily action.

Resorting to bucket baths and stored water is a way of life for residents in many areas, as water is supplied for only a couple of hours each day.

Monsoon rainfall has not been sufficient to resolve the shortage and the water cuts will continue until June or July 2010.

Mumbai has a daily requirement of 4,200m litres of water, and it is falling short by 800m litres.

In recent months the shortage has sparked violent demonstrations by Mumbai residents.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg report on India's sanitation crisis:

March 4 (Bloomberg) -- Until May 2007, Meera Devi rose before dawn each day and walked a half mile to a vegetable patch outside the village of Kachpura to find a secluded place.

Dodging leering men and stick-wielding farmers and avoiding spots that her neighbors had soiled, the mother of three pulled up her sari and defecated with the Taj Mahal in plain view.

With that act, she added to the estimated 100,000 tons of human excrement that Indians leave each day in fields of potatoes, carrots and spinach, on banks that line rivers used for drinking and bathing and along roads jammed with scooters, trucks and pedestrians. Devi looks back on her routine with pain and embarrassment.

“As a woman, I would have to check where the males were going to the toilet and then go in a different direction,” says Devi, 37, standing outside her one-room mud-brick home. “We used to avoid the daytimes, but if we were really pressured, we would have to go any time of the day, even if it was raining. During the harvest season, people would have sticks in the fields. If somebody had to go, people would beat them up or chase them.”

In the shadow of its new suburbs, torrid growth and 300- ­million-plus-strong middle class, India is struggling with a sanitation emergency. From the stream in Devi’s village to the nation’s holiest river, the Ganges, 75 percent of the country’s surface water is contaminated by human and agricultural waste and industrial effluent. Everyone in Indian cities is at risk of consuming human feces, if they’re not already, the Ministry of Urban Development concluded in September.

Economic Drain

Illness, lost productivity and other consequences of fouled water and inadequate sewage treatment trimmed 1.4-7.2 percent from the gross domestic product of Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam in 2005, according to a study last year by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program.

Sanitation and hygiene-related issues may have a similar if not greater impact on India’s $1.2 trillion economy, says Guy Hutton, a senior water and sanitation economist with the program in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Snarled transportation and unreliable power further damp the nation’s growth. Companies that locate in India pay hardship wages and ensconce employees in self- sufficient compounds.

The toll on human health is grim. Every day, 1,000 children younger than 5 years old die in India from diarrhea, hepatitis- causing pathogens and other sanitation-related diseases, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

‘Sanitation Crisis’

For girls, the crisis is especially acute: Many drop out of school once they reach puberty because of inadequate lavatories, depriving the country of a generation of possible leaders.

“India cannot reach its full economic potential unless they do something about this sanitation crisis,” says Clarissa Brocklehurst, Unicef’s New York-based chief of water, sanitation and hygiene, who worked in New Delhi from 1999 to 2001.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a British report of India complaining about "poverty porn":

Diplomatic officials are preparing to lodge a complaint with Ofcom, the media watchdog, about the content of McCloud's Channel 4 series, Slumming It.

In the two-part documentary, the Grand Designs host visited Mumbai's squalid Dharavi slum. It showed children living amongst open sewers, dead rats and toxic waste, and residents scavenging on the city's rubbish dump.

Sources say the Indian High Commission in London granted a filming permit in the belief that McCloud was making a programme highlighting Mumbai's architectural history, and officials were horrified to see the end result.

"We thought it would be about the architecture of Mumbai but it was only about slums, nothing else. He was showing dirty sewage and dead rats, children playing amongst rubbish and people living in these small rooms. He never talked about architecture at all.

"This was poverty porn made to get ratings, and we are upset," the source said.

"Many people know India but for people who don't travel, they will think all of India is like this. Of course it will affect our tourism. It is not representative at all.

"We are not saying, 'Don't show Dharavi', but the show was not balanced. There is so much more to Mumbai and so much more to India."

The original synopsis submitted by the programme-makers said: "Kevin McCloud's passions are buildings and people and he will explore the architecture of Mumbai... Maharashtrian, British, Gothic and post-modern."

The source said: "When the production company applied, they said the name of the documentary was going to be Grand Designs. They said it was part of a 'celebration of all things India' and that he would look at different kinds of architecture. He didn't do any of this.

"Only occasionally did he mention the community spirit and the low crime rate and the fact that rubbish is recycled there.

"People forget that this nation is 60 years old. We are a young nation and it's not easy to bring 300 million people out of poverty just like that."

Slumming It was part of Channel 4's ongoing Indian Winter season. Of the five programmes shown so far, four have been set in the Mumbai slums, including a 'Slumdog' version of The Secret Millionaire.

The source accused Channel 4 of "cashing in on the success of Slumdog Millionaire", the Oscar-winning film which kicked off the season.

McCloud has praised the community spirit in Dharavi, claiming that the British government could use it as a model for "social sustainability". The Prince of Wales has hailed Dharavi as a model for urban planning.

In a joint statement, Channel 4 and the production company, talkbackThames, said: "We have not received a complaint from the India High Commission. The programme explores if city planners and architects can learn from the way Asia’s biggest slum has evolved and developed high levels of sustainability. Kevin McCloud follows everyday life in Dharavi and the film is a balanced and insightful account of his experience there.

"While it raises issues such as acute levels of poverty and the lack of sanitation, the programme also highlights many positive aspects of life in Dharavi such as the real sense of community as well as low levels of crime and unemployment. We believe that the film raises some important points around the issues of poverty, sustainability and city planning and is clearly in the public interest.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on "targeted killings" in Karachi:

At least 50 people have been killed over the past fortnight in targeted killings in the Pakistani city of Karachi, rights groups say.

The violence started with an attack on 12 March on the offices of a local political group allied to Pakistan's governing political party, the PPP.

Dozens of people have since been targeted on an ethnic or sectarian basis across Karachi.

Police officials say most of those killed belong to the Pashtun community.

Karachi has been the scene of growing ethnic tensions due to the arrival of thousands of Pashtuns fleeing conflict in north-western Pakistan.
'Politically motivated attacks'

Police say the number killed is lower than the estimate put forward by human rights groups.

"According to the figures we have, 109 people have died in violent incidents since 12 March," Saud Mirza, chief of Police in Karachi, told the BBC.

"Out of these only 34 people have been killed in politically motivated attacks."

But the police statistics are contested by local journalists and human rights activists, who say that the actual number of victims is much higher.

They say that the police only confirm political activists or leaders as dying in targeted killings - whereas in reality many more die in attacks carried out against people of specific ethnicities by gunmen.

While most of the dead are ordinary citizens - usually belonging to the Pashtun community - civilians from the Baloch and Urdu-speaking community have also died.

Local Pashtun activists say Karachi's largest party, the MQM, is behind most of the violence. The MQM denies this.

On Monday, a senior MQM leader blamed the violence on gangs of extortionists and land grabbers who had taken the city hostage.

Dr Farooq Sattar was speaking after President Asif Zardari said in an address to parliament that those destroying the peace in Karachi would be dealt with severely.

However police say that several arrests have been made of individuals involved in the killings.

"The situation is now being brought under control," police chief Saud Mirza said.

But human rights organisations say the situation in Karachi is increasingly dangerous and a cause for great concern.

"The continued spate of targeted political killings in Karachi is appalling, as is the inability of the political actors in the city to negotiate their differences peacefully," said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan representative of Human Rights Watch.

"It is the job of the provincial and central governments to ensure the writ of the state is established in the metropolis.

"They must ensure that all political parties complicit in these target killings - whether part of the provincial coalition or not - should be held to account.

"It is a documented fact that all political forces in Karachi, whether it is the MQM or the state, have engaged in human rights abuses including targeted killings in the past."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story about Dharavi slum that illustrates entrepreneurship at the bottom:

At the edge of India’s greatest slum, Shaikh Mobin’s decrepit shanty is cleaved like a wedding cake, four layers high and sliced down the middle. The missing half has been demolished. What remains appears ready for demolition, too, with temporary walls and a rickety corrugated roof.

Yet inside, carpenters are assembling furniture on the ground floor. One floor up, men are busily cutting and stitching blue jeans. Upstairs from them, workers are crouched over sewing machines, making blouses. And at the top, still more workers are fashioning men’s suits and wedding apparel. One crumbling shanty. Four businesses.

In the labyrinthine slum known as Dharavi are 60,000 structures, many of them shanties, and as many as one million people living and working on a triangle of land barely two-thirds the size of Central Park in Manhattan. Dharavi is one of the world’s most infamous slums, a cliché of Indian misery. It is also a churning hive of workshops with an annual economic output estimated to be $600 million to more than $1 billion.

“This is a parallel economy,” said Mr. Mobin, whose family is involved in several businesses in Dharavi. “In most developed countries, there is only one economy. But in India, there are two.”.....

Similar to Dharavi, Karachi's Orangi town is an example of undocumented entrepreneurship in the shanties. From garments to leather to furniture, there are many small cottage industries operated by small entrepreneurs in Orangi town.