Improbable Neighbors – How the world’s biggest cities coexist with the biggest slums

We live in strange times. Everywhere around us, we look at the duality of what the modern lifestyle entails. We’re more connected than ever via technology and the internet, but it feels like people are growing more distant. It’s the age of information, and yet we take in way too much fluff and very little substance. We’ve got more money than before, but it’s increasingly tougher to buy a place that you can call your own.
However, there’s no avenue where this duality is starkly, unavoidably apparent than the populace that exists in abject poverty, right next to cityscapes that ooze opulence. There’s a clear divide, and if you look at the unbelievable contrast between some of the places we mention below, you might find it hard to comprehend that they exist in the same city.

Mumbai – Dharavi

Dharavi is something that has to be seen to be understood. This is one of the largest and most expansive slums in the world. Separated by a thin road from one of the poshest neighborhoods in Mumbai, Dharavi is home to more than a million people. When you consider that there are only about a total of 12 million people in the city, this population of slum dwellers is enormous. Dharavi is home to a plethora of businesses, both legal and illegal. Author Gregory David Roberts famously describes what life in Dharavi was like in his classic novel ‘Shantaram’.

Cape Town – Khayelitsha

Cape Town, well known for its harbor and beautiful locales, also harbors Khayeltisha – a remnant of the darkest period in the history of the country. Pre-apartheid, areas were designated to keep out people who weren’t white via the passing of various thinly veiled legislations and laws. Khayelitsha is one of the areas that was born out of this situation and harbors a large population of black people.

Cape Town remains one of the most segregated towns in the nation of South Africa, and low-income areas like Khayelitsha speak volumes about the human capacity for intolerance.

Nairobi – Kibera

Kibera is the largest slum in East Africa and is located a small distance away from the center of the city of Nairobi. Kibera has been home to a lot of tension between the Luo and Luhya tribes during the 80s and the early 90s, in the aftermath of which it became primarily a Luo-dominated area. Although the slum is illegal, the number of residents emigrating to it continues to rise to this day. The government support for the people of Kibera is slim to none, and whatever services flourish within it, even essential ones such as schools, water supply and sanitation are run and managed by private entities.

Karachi – Orangi Town

Orangi Town is a massive town with over 1.5 million residents in the southwestern part of Karachi. Due to the low average income and minimal government representation, Orangi Town is infamous for violence and illegal activity. Even though the local government has initiated some reforms in recent years, most households only have the bare minimum of civic amenities available to them.

Karachi, on the other hand, continues to enjoy eminence as one of the important cities in the global economy. It was the capital of Pakistan before Islamabad took its place.

Rio De Janeiro – Rocinha

Brazil has lots of favelas (the Brazilian term for slums) and Rocinha is the largest one. It’s one of the better organized slums on this list, and boasts a halfway-decent infrastructure. In recent years, most of the housing in Rocinha has been upgraded to concrete.

However, to truly understand the contrast between the crowded, almost haphazard rows of houses in this favela, you only need to look towards the rest of Rio. Rio is famous for its extravagant carnivals, beautiful beaches and of course, Christ the Redeemer. Rio is also home to some of the biggest companies in Brazil and Latin America as a whole.