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The Antilia Skyscraper and Mumbai Slums
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Mumbai ranks as the fifth most densely populated city when compared to other cities around the globe with an approximate population of about 12,478,447 people. Mumbai also stands out as the wealthiest city with a higher relative GDP as compared to all other cities in South, West, and Central Asia (Wouter). Even so, the city is a mess when it comes to housing as the result of the ever-increasing slums that contrast with the large urbanized territory. Like most cities, the distinction between the wealthy few and the majority of the poor is clear in the type of housing in a modern city. The paper highlights the development of the most luxurious skyscraper in Mumbai, Antilia, which is a residence of Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in Mumbai, in contrast to the slums that surround this expensive establishment.
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Dobrucka notes that Mumbai ranks as the city with the greatest number of skyscrapers under construction as compared to all the cities around the globe. It demonstrates the push towards the modernization of Mumbai to turn the city into a global economic and tourist destination. Currently, Mumbai has more than 2500 high-rise buildings, and rich tycoons continue to construct even more because of the loose regulation on the construction of high-rise buildings (Dobrucka). The lack of centralized urban planning is the most significant reason why skyscrapers and other high-rise buildings continue to emerge in Mumbai skyline in an uncontrolled manner. The skyscrapers mostly crop up in large pieces of land where a majority of textile factories, which have already been closed down, existed and the suburbs. It indicates that Mumbai slowly becomes a global city, but the lavish high-rise buildings contrast with the neighboring slums where people live in deplorable conditions.
However, in some instances, the skyscrapers take up space in the suburbs and convert these areas into a series of luxury apartments that the previous residents cannot afford. As a result, more people end up in the slums, which is the reason the slum population has surged over time in Mumbai. In 2006, statistics indicated that 54% of the inhabitants in Mumbai lived in the slums, with another 25-30% residing in the chawls and footpaths, while only 10-15% dwelled in bungalows, apartments, and high-rise buildings (InfoChange India). It was projected that the rising real estate prices, outdated housing laws, and an uncontrolled migration to Mumbai would cause the city to be filled with informal settlements. Already, the slums have overtaken most areas in Mumbai, causing a crisis in this modern city. As of 2014, estimates indicated that approximately 62%, which represented about nine million people, resided in the desolate slums of Mumbai (Dobrucka). The increase in the people living in the slum conditions is associated with the excessive migration into Mumbai as people seek to get rich. However, with the real estate prices surpassing the majority of the highest prices globally, more people in the working class have relocated to the slums, which might explain the growing slum population in the city.
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The slums have always defined the landscape of Mumbai ever since the settlement into the city in the early years as the result of squatter establishments. Throughout this period, Mumbai did not undergo a comprehensive planning, and the construction of the necessary infrastructure and facilities failed to begin (Landon 187). As a result, the lack of water supply, sewage and drainage systems as well as infrastructure have led to the significant problems for the poorest population in Mumbai living in the desolate slums. The recent proliferation of high-rise buildings, gentrification, and economic problems might have pushed more people into the slum establishments that have increased significantly in numbers over time. The scarcity of affordable housing has prompted the poor living in Mumbai to establish informal settlements in any place where there is space, including footpaths and roads (Landon 187). Consequently, the slum dwellers experience difficult living conditions because of the lack of sewage and drainage systems as well as water supply facilities. Further, the slum dwellers contend with poor transport infrastructure, poor sanitation, constant migration, and insufficient access to the health care services.
The slum life contrasts with the urban territory, in which high-rise buildings and skyscrapers reach high into the skyline. A clear example is the skyscraper residence of Mumbais richest man, Mukesh Ambani. The skyscraper known as Antilia is a 27-story 400,000-square-foot building and it is featured among the top most expensive residences around the world (PTI). It emerges as the most expensive property in the whole of Mumbai. According to PTI, the Antilia skyscraper is the worlds most expensive billionaire residence given that its construction has cost on average one to two billion dollars. The total cost of the skyscraper is capable of securing the lives of the people living in the desolate slums just next to this luxurious building.
The building comprises of a six-story underground parking lot, three helicopter pads, and demands approximately 600 people as part of the labor force to ensure its proper running (PTI). The features of the skyscraper express luxury at its best, considering the amount invested into the construction of the building, whose property price has evoked varying responses on the real estate markets globally. In India, politicians like the Prime Minister expressed dismay about the construction of such as building, whose price and luxurious amenities reflect a lack of moderation in the wake of economic problems facing the country. In response to the plans to build Antilia, Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister articulated that business leaders should be role models of moderation (Bisht). Mumbai has a high population of people who survive below the poverty line and most of them reside in the slums. Even so, instead of helping the poor, Ambani spent a large amount of the money in the construction of a luxurious building that stands in a proximate distance to the poorest slums. As people in the slums go ahead with their daily struggles just next to the most expensive skyscraper, the rich enjoy swimming pools, spas, theater, and other lavish features such as the hanging gardens (Yardley). The contrast highlights the extremes of poverty and riches in a city, whose landscape provides a clear picture of excesses and surpluses within a walking distance.
The existence of the slums amidst skyscrapers and other high-rise buildings in Mumbai raises the question of the role of the government in the physical planning and development of the city. As noted in the case of the Antilia skyscraper that rises adjacent to the slum dwellings, it is common for the rich and the poor in India to continue living alongside each other. The physical developments in Mumbai exhibit the greater disparities that exist in the city where expensive housing complexes, such as Antilia, lie adjacent to the Dharavi slum (Maan). Mumbai harbors the largest slum, which is the Dharavi slum, despite the fact that it stands out as the wealthiest city in the country.
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Part of the problem is associated with the inability of the government to provide the affordable housing to Mumbai residents and the existence of outdated housing laws. In Mumbai, approximately 100-300 families arrive on a daily basis only to establish informal settlements on any available space, including footpaths (InfoChange India). As the poor continue to live in the deplorable conditions, the rich continue to erect flamboyant high-rise buildings and sell a lavish lifestyle to those who can afford it. On the other hand, the working-class have to move out of the now appreciating apartments and relocate to the slum establishments.
The building boom causes several problems for the working class and the slum dwellers because of the demand for land and the high possibility for gentrification. Gentrification, in this case, might cause the displacement of small businesses that serve as a source of livelihood to the low and middle-income groups, thus leading to unemployment. So far, gentrification has caused the displacement of the low-income groups as the result of the rising property prices and rent, thus pushing them into the slums. The demand for land is a significant problem as the developers demolish the slums to provide space to launch commercial projects. Such efforts to redevelop the slums have faced fierce opposition because the slum dwellers consider them controversial in the sense that some slum rehabilitation policies and redevelopment projects only aid land grabbing and commercial development (Patel). The slum rehabilitation policy allows the developers to seize land from the slum dwellers based on the promise that they will provide the free housing.
However, the policy is controversial because the free housing only goes to individuals who have lived in the slum dwelling before 1995 and, in certain cases, before 2000 (Srivastava and Echanove). Corruption is the greatest challenge to the rehabilitation of the slums in Mumbai because the developers working with corrupt politicians conspire to grab land meant for the slum dwellers only to establish high-rise buildings.
The government has failed Mumbai in its efforts to provide affordable homes to a majority of people who live in the desolate slums. People continue to develop and build houses throughout Mumbai but without any official schemes to facilitate the proper urban planning. As of now, the population living in the slums, which is approximately 62%, occupies about 6% of the total land in Mumbai (Srivastava and Echanove). Most of the buildings regarded as the slums are built using steel, bricks, and cement. However, the buildings are constructed without following a specific urban planning framework necessary to improve the physical planning and development in Mumbai. The slums of Mumbai suffer from the inadequate infrastructural needs, but the government does not step in to improve the living standards of the slum dwellers. The reason most of the slums remain in deplorable conditions is the need to keep the slum dwellers in a state of political dependency (Srivastava and Echanove). However, this hurts Mumbai and its rise into a modern city as the reflected in the growing number of high-rise buildings on the urban territory just next to the slums.
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Therefore, the government ought to step in and find some innovative and effective ways of addressing the alarming scarcity of the affordable housing. Without the proper physical planning and development in Mumbai, the increasing high-rise buildings and skyscrapers will continue to rule the skyline as the slum dwellers below continue to live in the deplorable conditions. The proper physical planning will play a significant role in the comprehensive development of Mumbai to reflect the architecture of a modern city.
In conclusion, the Antilia skyscraper is the most expensive residence globally, yet it rises from the slums a small distance away. The skyscraper and its extravagant features are a contrast of the slums where people build informal settlements and live in the deplorable conditions. The contrast highlights the excesses and deficits in their extremities. The problem is associated with the lack of the centralized physical planning and development as well as the existence of the outdated housing laws. However, with the centralized planning and well-managed physical development of the area harboring the urban slums, Mumbai can experience a comprehensive growth into a modern city.
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