Trying to look for something else than the usual dose of museums, beach resorts and restaurants, many foreign tourists are now turning to places that may seem at first to be the exact opposite of the typical tours: Slum tourism. Dharavi, Asia’s largest slums, just became India’s favourite tourist “experience” in 2019, beating classic drawings like the legendary Taj Mahal. Some shanty town-like areas in cities such as Mumbai, Johannesburg, and Rio de Janeiro have now become bona fide tourist attractions, far from being treated as no-go-zones that outsiders would be wise to avoid.
Slum tourism: How it started?
The Oxford English Dictionary first published ‘slumming’ in 1884. By 1884 wealthier people in New York City started visiting the Bowery and the Lower East Five-Point District, poor immigrant community, wondering “how the other half lives.”
In the 1980s, black people in South Africa organized township tours to educate the whites in local governments about the way the black population resided. This tour attracted tourists from around the world who wanted to learn more about apartheid. In the mid-1990s, it started organizing international tours with destinations in the most deprived areas of developing nations, also known as slums.
Ever since Slumdog Millionaire was released in 2008, Mumbai had been a slum tourist destination. Recently, the idea of slum tourism has been receiving more coverage from both the media and government. The first international slum-tourism conference was held in Bristol in December 2010.
Slum tourism around the world
Slum tourism today has developed into a legal global industry taking in more than a million tourists a year. Tour operators now offer visits to places such as Cape Town and Johannesburg Townships, Rio favelas, Mumbai and New Delhi slums, or even LA skid rows, Detroit, Copenhagen and Berlin.
In India, slum tourism is a comparatively new phenomenon unlike South Africa and Brazil.
Dharavi slum tourism industry
Mumbai’s Dharavi slum area is Asia’s biggest slum, and the World’s third-largest. After the release of Slumdog Millionaire, it was thrust into the spotlight even though it was just the filming site and not the actual slum in which the film was set.
Dharavi tours in Mumbai, in recent years have risen in popularity — but for a very good reason. Such tours seek to dissipate any ideas that people may have of Dharavi being a place of suffering, and are very motivating indeed. They show what people can really do despite adverse circumstances.
Dharavi is not a devastated and marginalized squatter community. There are thriving home industries within the shanties alleys that support 20,000 small-scale units. The Maharashtra Slum Redevelopment Authority (SRA) describes the growth of Dharavi as “closely interwoven with the trend of migration into Mumbai”, owing to the free and unregulated land. Together with Tamil Nadu Muslim tanners, Uttar Pradesh craftsmen and embroidery workers, and several other migrants who set up savoury and sweet businesses, the area offers adequate employment opportunities regardless of location, caste, religion. Dharavi is also well known for its recycling, receipt and manufacturing industries.
Effect of Slum Tourism on Regional Development
Slum tourism is an opportunity to broaden business and build employment, socio-cultural engagement and also as an incentive to invest and sustain local infrastructure, a motivation to preserve traditional arts and resources, traditional sciences and methods that will contribute to sustainable use of biodiversity.
Taking into account the potential spots in the slum regions, job opportunities will increase with the arrival of visitors, which will contribute to economic growth in the area and also reduce deprivation, increase the general and social participation of residents in order to boost the level of education, health and food, note the past of the regions, renovate historic centres, preserve the original culture and archaeology.
What is the real impact?
Initially, slum tourism was only for the purpose of visiting poor regions and their way of life, but today it is carried out with the help of tours and tourists for these regions to eliminate poverty and construct growth and development in the area by creating opportunities to increase awareness and local participation and boost economic, social and cultural conditions.
Other slums to visit in India
- Bhalswa Slum, Delhi- The population of this slum is considered to be 20 percent of Delhi’s total population. These slums appear to be on the bank of the Yamuna river. Slum dwellers from different parts of Delhi were resettled at Bhalswa.
- Nochikuppam Slum, Chennai – “The city of flyovers” has a slum in Nochikuppam with 1,300 huts where about 5,000 people live below the level of poverty and they don’t have enough money for two meals a day.
- Basanti slum,Kolkata- “The City of Joy” Kolkata has a slum area known as the Basanti slum, it is one of the biggest kolkata slum regions. One third of Kolkata’s population lives in these slums.
- Bangalore’s Rajendra Nagar Slum – Bangalore alone holds a total of 570 slums in the state comprising about 2000 slums. It is estimated that around 20 percent of the population in Bangalore resides in slums.
- Indiramma Nagar Hyderabad- “Nizam City” Around 624689 people live in the Hyderabad slums area. In 104 known and 24 unidentified slums in Hyderabad, very little land is available for all people’s stay.
- Saroj Nagar Nagpur slum – “The Orange City” Nagpur has 424 legal slum zones, Sarojnagar is just one of the city’s 424 slums. Around 40 per cent of the population in Nagpur live in slums. More than 1,42,000 people live in these slums and occupy around 1,600 hectares of prime land.
- Mehbullahpur Slum Lucknow– Lucknow ‘s population includes large numbers of poor people, many of whom live in slums. 20000 people living in 22 of the 460 slums in the city of Lucknow. Many people migrate to Lucknow for daily wages from different parts of the nearest district.
- Satnami Nagar slum, Bhopal – “City of Lakes” Bhopal has many slums, one of the oldest slums in Bhopal is Satnami Nagar. Bhopal communities live on the streets and these slums provide shelter and other survival facilities for them.
- Parivartan slum, Ahmadabad- In the city about 440,000 residents live in slums. Ahmedabad is home to a substantial population of poor people living on the banks of the river. Ahmedabad ‘s side river slums are 40 yrs old.
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Author: Pallavi Bhagat
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