Why this picture? Module 5

The skyline of Mumbai (Bombay till 1995) shows the sharp contradictions of a contemporary megacity.

The skyline of Mumbai (Bombay till 1995) shows the sharp contradictions of a contemporary megacity with highly contrasting levels of development. On the one hand, clusters like financial services offer high incomes, on the other hand, fast rates of urbanisation driven by rural migration cause widespread poverty and unemployment for a large section of the population who live in slums. Stark contrasts like this can be found all over the world in many megacities. Whether they are called Favelas in Brazil, Shanty towns in the West Indies and Canada, Bustees on the Indian subcontinent, Skid row in the USA or Townships in South Africa, slum areas typically suffer from:

• Poor, overcrowded, small housing, built very close together using inadequate material and with uncertain electricity supplies
• restricted or no access to water supplies
a polluted and degraded local environment due to little sanitation facilities and no solid waste disposal
• inadequate health facilities
• insecure living conditions

In the UK, urbanisation (the movement of people from rural areas to urban areas) became a rapid process in the second half of the 18th century. Then, in the Victorian age (19th century), the explosion of the Industrial Revolution accelerated the migration of the population from the country to the city. The result was the development of horrifying slums and cramped row housing in the overcrowded cities. By 1900, 80% of the population lived in cities. These cities were organized into geographical areas based on social class – the poor living in the inner city, the more privileged further away from the city centre.

Urbanization was both a great leveller and a producer of new classes such as the merchant, the professional classes, and the gentry. Perhaps the most important element in these developments was the railway, the building of which transformed the landscape, the cityscape, and individual lives. The Victorians themselves were both fascinated and horrified by their cities, especially London, which, though not an industrial city, also presented the combined effects of rapid and uncontrolled growth.

(A. Humpherys, The city)

At the same time , the Victorians seemed to accept the contradictions of a world where poverty and affluence existed side by side in a compromise which was a combination of the positive and negative aspects of the Age. Victorian society struggled with conflicts of morality, technology, faith, imperialism, and rights of women and minorities.

Megacity Mumbai - From slums to skyscrapers  (first 24 min)