One of the most densely populated cities globally is the Indian city of Mumbai. Due to the growing number of people living in Mumbai - at this writing, the official number stands at 20 million people and counting - space is quickly running out. The solution, of course, is to build up, and today, there are hundreds of high-rise construction sites being built all over the city.
Almost all of them are luxury apartments for the super-rich and the upwardly mobile members of its population.
Though it is not the official capital, Mumbai is the "Financial Capital of India". It is the wealthiest city in the country, with a declared GDP of about $310 billion. You would think these high-end housing projects would quickly solve the lack of space problem the city is currently experiencing. However, the sad reality is that more than 55% of Mumbai's population live in slums and below the poverty line. There is a wide income gap between those living in the poorest parts of the city vs the very wealthy. It is estimated that the poor only earn a maximum of 25 per cent of what the wealthiest earn.
For these new swanky buildings to go up, hundreds of hectares of Mumbai's sprawling slums are being cleared out, torn down and levelled. The largest slum in Asia is Dharavi, located right in the middle - or heart - of Mumbai. It is roughly the size of 2 square kilometres, but over one million people live there.
It is a hard place to live, with rampant poverty, no running water or stable electricity, and no formal sewage system. But Dharavi is a microcosm, and those who live there all work very hard, running various small scale businesses that earn a whopping 800 Euros per year! These businesses include plastic recycling, leather bag factories, and more.
Once the slums are torn down, the developers are required, by law, to relocate the now displaced residents. They are usually sent to live in the outskirts of Mumbai in areas that are not economically viable or attractive. Home for them is now a series of cheaply constructed blocks of flats that are cramped, surrounded by open sewers and look so rundown and almost impossible to maintain.
Another growing problem for Mumbai is that its rapid expansion and growth have already pushed residential areas past city limits and encroached into designated nature reserves. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is located in Northern Mumbai and sprawls 100 square kilometres.
Wild leopards from the park are now crossing over into the residential areas, mainly slums, stalking and hunting at night, attacking dogs and other pets, but also humans. Numerous children have been attacked and killed by leopards over the last few years. This shows that these wild animals are adapting; they are getting stronger and are not frightened. Their numbers are also on the rise, just like Mumbai's population.
By 2050, Mumbai will have 40 million inhabitants. Unless measures are placed to curb the population or government, and civil groups implement ethical and sustainable expansion plans, the situation will worsen.
Directed by: Marc de La Villardière, Manolo d'Arthuys