The Context of Koliwada in Mumbai

Dharavi’s Koliwada is a traditional fisherfolk community that dates back at least 400 years. Dharavi is one of the largest informal settlements in Asia. It is also a highly diverse residential, commercial, and industrial area with some of the highest population density levels in the world. Koliwada’s village-like character has been preserved even in the midst of the dramatic urban and demographic changes that Mumbai has experienced in the last century.

Mumbai, the “maximum city”, epitomizes the transformation that the Indian sub-continent is undergoing at a time of extremely rapid economic growth, urbanization, and rural-urban migration. The largest city in India, Mumbai is also its financial and commercial capital, making it a strong magnet for global real-estate investors.

Dharavi developed on marshlands in the periphery of Mumbai. It has historically been a point of entry to the city for migrants from all parts of the country. This 223-hectare settlement —home to at least half a million people — finds itself today at the centre of greater Mumbai. Situated a stone’s throw away from the Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai’s new financial centre, Dharavi has an estimated real-estate value of more than USD $2 billion.

A recent attempt by the metropolitan government of Mumbai to redevelop the Dharavi by offering building rights to private developers in exchange for constructing housing for some longer-term residents and providing some amenities (the Dharavi Redevelopment Project) has been loudly decried as undemocratic, as it leaves locals completely out of the decision-making process.. The government is now trying to address one of the DRP's primary flaws: the fact that it is not based on any solid study of Dharavi in physical, demographic, social or economic terms.
Koliwada is at the forefront of a battle for self-determination that concerns all of the residents of Dharavi and, ultimately, all of the slum dwellers in India. After having been largely ignored by the government and public institutions for generations, residents now claim the right to develop their neighborhood on their own terms. After all, Koliwada existed even before Mumbai was called Bombay by the Portuguese.

The residents of Koliwada are inviting architects, urbanists, sociologists, economists, activists, artists, musicians, and other creative participants from all over the world to brainstorm with them about the future of their neighborhood and community.