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.

Unknown 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 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.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Red Crescent fosters #community ownership of risk reduction programmes. #RuralDevelopment http://reliefweb.int/report/pakistan/pakistan-red-crescent-fosters-community-ownership-risk-reduction-programmes?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=shared&utm_source=twitter.com … via @reliefweb

At the crack of dawn, Ghulam Haider and several of his neighbours from Gulhatra village in Mansehra District, climb a steep hill to repair a broken pipeline after a landslide damaged their water source. Ghulam and the other community members have been trained by Pakistan Red Crescent as part of an Integrated Community Based Risk Reduction (ICBRR) programme, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Norwegian Red Cross.

Under the programme, two water supply schemes in Mansehra district have been rehabilitated, ensuring access to clean water for about 2,800 people in the community. As Joint Secretary of the Community Based Organisation of his village, which was created with the Red Crescent’s assistance, Ghulam manages the repairs of two of the four-kilometre long pipeline.

“With help from other community members, we usually do the labour work ourselves to maintain the water supply scheme instead of hiring professionals for the job, which proves economical,” Ghulam explains.

For Marina Bibi and the villagers of Takia Bela in Neelum District, living near the river means facing annual flooding and the threat of losing their homes during the monsoon season. Through the programme, the Red Crescent has helped to build an 80-feet-long stone wall as an extension of an existing 500-feet wall that protects the poor, minority community from the surging river.

“My relatives and I used to provide meals for the labourers,” Marina says. “It feels good to be able to help in any small way, and we look forward to the completion of this wall. I spent many sleepless nights with my family, fearing that the overflowing river would wash away our home.”

Apart from encouraging community ownership, the ICBRR programme incorporates disaster risk management, health, water and sanitation and first aid. It also helps to build the capacity of the National Society’s local branches and inspires them to liaise with local stakeholders to build stronger, better-prepared communities in the face of disasters and other hazards.

For Kausar, a shy teenager from Bagh district in the state of Pakistan Administered Kashmir, going to school was once an arduous task. Located on top of a hill, the track leading to her school would become slippery after the rain, and was often dangerous to traverse.

Now, thanks to the programme, the Red Crescent constructed a cemented foot track on the winding paths of her village to enable everyone, especially the children and elderly, to access the school and other facilities around the village.

The projects, which cost five to ten thousand US Dollars each, cover a range of initiatives such as the construction and rehabilitation of water supply schemes, the construction of a suspension bridge, foot tracks, a stone wall, latrines, the installation of hand pumps and solar pumps, and the rehabilitation of hand pumps and a dispensary.

The three districts have been chosen for the programme based on a set of multi-sectoral criteria, comprising the country’s Human Development Index, health profile, and a listing of prioritised districts by the country’s National Disaster Management Authority. The selection was made after analysing the country’s National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy and Pakistan Red Crescent’s existing infrastructure. The ICBRR programme also gives high priority to the most vulnerable communities, and promotes the integration of gender considerations to ensure that aid reaches even those who are marginalized.