Wednesday, February 23, 2005

1000 people per acre? Bombay slum rehabilitation plan

Sonia Gandhi is forcing the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to rehabilitate 800,000 illegal shanties destroyed by the state government.

The state of Maharashtra has tried to find any number of excuses to avoid doing the needful. The money issue is understandable. What is harder for me to comprehend is the population density they are talking about implementing in the hypothetically legalized and rebuilt slum-city. Take the following chart on Indian Express:

Rehabilitation needs of Mumbai slums built between 1995 and 2000:
8 LAKH [800,000] total shanties
2,000 HECTARES land required
Rs 24,700 CRORE [comes out to $5 billion, I think]
(land: Rs 700 crore; construction: Rs 20,000 crore; infrastructure cost: Rs 400 crore)

The money doesn't add up quite right in dollars. Does the state of Maharashtra have $5 billion at its disposal?

But more than that, I'm a little shocked by how tightly packed these shanty-towns are going to be. Let's conservatively estimate that each shanty counted of the 800,000 that were destroyed housed 2 people (the real number is probably closer to 5). If they are talking about putting everyone -- nearly 2 million people -- on just 2000 acres, they are talking about 1000 people per acre! This might be possible if they were building 10 story apartments, but that's clearly not what they're intending.

Then again, thought the article suggests the space available is 2000 acres, the chart does say 2000 hectares. If we consider that there are 2.5 acres in a hectare, it does look a little less crazy. Slums are, as a rule, extremely densely populated in Indian metros (and especially Bombay).

And one should also keep in mind that greater Bombay overall has a population density of 16,000 per square mile (according to this site at Macalester College). That sounds extremely dense -- and it is -- but it works out to only 25 people per acre (640 acres in a square mile).

No matter how you do the math, the plan for rehabilitation that seems so onerous is still one that envisions a shocking, even impossible, level of population density.


Kerim Friedman said...

Michael Wolf's photographs of Hong Kong come to mind. (Strange, the server seems to be down - but I'll post the link anyway in the hopes that it returns!)

2:58 PM  
Ms. World said...

I guess someone got their blogging mojo back!! ;)

8:42 PM  
Amardeep said...

Ms. World,

Yeah -- funny how that happens!

8:57 PM  
Abi said...


Without taking too much away from the focus of your argument, may I point out that you have got hectares and acres mixed up. This unit conversion site tells me that 1 hectare is worth 2.5 acres, 1 acre is about 43560 square feet. So using your figures, we have about 400 persons per acre, or 109 square feet per person, assuming (as you did) 2 million persons. Of course, we are not counting space for roads, and other such "common" areas.

On the other hand, perhaps a better comparison is between this figure, and the figure for their now defunct shanties.

5:28 AM  

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