Dharavi Slum Rooftop: A View of Mumbai’s Skyline

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Last Updated on July 23, 2017 by Audrey Scott

Slum. It’s a loaded word, one that conjures a raft of negative imagery. But there's one characteristic that's not likely to come to mind: industry.

That’s where Dharavi, Mumbai’s most populated slum, might surprise you.

Dharavi Slums, rooftop recycling.
Rooftop recycling at Dharivi slum in Mumbai, India.

Recycling — or perhaps it should be called extreme recycling — is one of Dharavi’s biggest industries. Akshay, our guide from Reality Tours & Travel, an organization invested in the community, explained the process: “Every type of plastic, aluminum and metal is collected from all over the city and brought to Dharavi. Then it is sorted for quality, crushed down or melted, cleaned and resold. Nothing is wasted. Absolutely nothing.”

While industry is growing in Dharavi, space is scarce. So rooftops become makeshift storage areas for many of these raw recyclables before they are broken down. Open up the panorama below to get a feel for what it’s like to stand on a rooftop of a recycling business in the middle of Dharavi and appreciate Mumbai's skyline in the distance.

What you find on the streets below might surprise you, too. But that, my friends, is for another post.

About Audrey Scott
Audrey Scott is a writer, storyteller, speaker and tourism development consultant. She aims to help turn people's fears into curiosity and connection. She harbors an obsession for artichokes and can bake a devastating pan of brownies. You can keep up with her adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And you can learn more about her on the About Page and on LinkedIn.

15 thoughts on “Dharavi Slum Rooftop: A View of Mumbai’s Skyline”

  1. On our first trip to India we were somewhat disheartened by the quantity of plastic bottles strewn along the roadside, but we also wonder what would happen to plastic consumption in “the West” if we had to really look at how much plastic we throw away every day instead of having it comfortably carried off in a truck twice a week.

  2. Hi —

    Enjoying your Mumbai photos.

    If you’re still in the city, I recommend going to the Jain Temple if you have an hour. I found it fascinating.

    – esme

  3. Wow that’s a lot of recyclables. Despite your post ( as well as that of other bloggers) about India, I am still doubtful about traveling there. With news about crimes committed against women, I just find it hard to take risk. 🙁

  4. I was in Dharavi slum and it was a great experience! I went there by myself, that clearly helped to have a more real feeling than a tour. But I didn’t manage to visit a rooftop 🙂

  5. That’s amazing, who would have thought of using the otherwise wasted space of the rooftops for recycling? Sometimes you have to be creative to get the job done!

  6. @Casey: I’ve thought the same thing – whether it comes to plastic bottles, plastic bags or just general garbage. There are so many things we take for granted at home (e.g., garbage pickup) that it helps to hide our consumption. What I like about these recycling businesses is that they offer an incentive to pick up garbage like this to turn into something productive again.

    @Esme: Thanks for the advice on the Jain temple. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go this visit, but we’ll add it to the list for next time. We had a fascinating visit once to a Jain temple in Bikaner many years ago.

    @Dharavi: What a lot of people don’t realize is that Dharavi (like a lot of other “slums”) is essentially a community or small town – it’s not like there’s a gate to keep people out. We did enjoy the tour as we were able to ask lots and lots of questions, but also can imagine just wandering the streets was a lot of fun.

    @Joe: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? 🙂

    @Barbara: Space is so limited in Dharavi that every inch is used for something. Necessity is the mother of creation 🙂

  7. Wow! Very interesting panorama picture! Very interesting how powerful the colors of the cans seem in contrast to the grey smoggy environment.

  8. @John: The bright colors (and color separation) of the plastic jugs were what stood out to us against the more drab, gray colors of the sky. Not your typical panorama, but hopefully interesting all the same.

    @Karen: We try to cover all aspects of the places we visit, and sometimes that takes us to unusual locations and situations. Glad we were able to share another perspective here with this panorama.

  9. This is definitely a new view of travel that I’m not used to seeing bloggers post. Thanks for bringing a new perspective on everything the world has to offer. There is more out there than what meets the eye…

  10. @Tim: Shantaram is one of our favorite travel and fiction books. Have read it several times, actually. His description of Mumbai, including life in the slums, is so engaging.

  11. Hi, Interesting panoramic view..missed this view! I recently went there with a German couch surfer and I now have a new found respect for people who live in Dharavi. Having grown up in Bombay, I had such a different perspective of this place. The annual turnover of things produced there is $660 million!! These people are so hard working and live life on their own terms, and oh so friendly. Though we didn’t take a tour, got to speak to many people who have been living there since the 1950s and how it has evolved over the years!

  12. @Vaishnavi: Certainly, if a visit to Dharavi teaches us nothing else, it’s that just because some people live in poverty does not always imply that they are not hard working. Often, it’s strikingly quite the opposite.

    As for being friendly, the same logic applies.

    Very glad to hear your perspective, that of a Mumbaiker (I hope I got that word right). Thank you for your very thoughtful comment!


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