Welcome back, dear readers and trailblazers! Today, we are a going to showcase an article a tad sadder than the ones before as sometimes one must glance at the not-so-glamorous in order to understand and value prosperity. As the title suggests, we are going to look at some of the most populous slums in the world and talk about what life in some of these is like. Before you pack your bags to any major city around the globe, make sure that you research and understand what lies behind the curtain of glitter that is usually presented to travellers. Awareness is key and our modern-day information-technology may just help the world become a better place. So let’s hop right into it!
First and foremost, what is a slum? What would a definition look like if we were to explore these “informal settlements”? Well, there are five main characteristics that describe a slum: the absence of safety, improper sanitation, little or no access to clean water, insufficient housing space, and even a total lack of a guarantee for permanent accommodation. Additionally, most people living in such locations are poor and are migrants from rural areas or smaller cities. Thus, the major slums of the world are unsurprisingly packed around some of the largest cities that one can travel to. Two worlds coexist, thus – but how?
If we take a brief look at the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, we’ll notice that it extends on a surface area disproportionally stretched out for its population size (even though more than 12.5 million people live within the bounds of its metropolitan area). Take a look at any drone footage and you’ll see exactly what we are talking about. So why is that? Well, there are two castes, if we may call them that, of people living in the metropolitan area (according to the locals): “The People of the Asphalt” and “The People of the Hill”. Whilst the city itself proudly reaches into the South Atlantic with its scintillating beaches and skyscrapers, the jungle-riddled hills are packed with areas called “favelas” – in other words, slums. These favelas are some of the most dangerous places in the world when it comes to crime and there are more than 400 of them in Rio de Janeiro alone. The people living in the slums live vastly different lives from “The People of the Asphalt” – government forces have little or no control over the gangs roaming there, the lack of hygienic facilities creates stirs, drugs are abundant, and, in some places, people even have a food problem.
If you’ve read our article about Rio, you already know that we have expressly begged you not to enter favelas if possible. Though some of them have been “pacified” by police forces, they are still visibly under the influence of major drug-dealing gangs. No traveller should have to subject themselves to what lies upon those gorgeous hills. Shootings are common even during the light of day and there is no guarantee that one can even make it out of a favela alive.
Slums such as the favelas of Rio are not uncommon throughout the world and they should all be avoided if possible. Cities like São Paulo, Cape Town, Manila, Nairobi, Karachi, Lima, Mumbai, and Mexico City have “informal settlements” as large as cities or even countries. To bring this statement into perspective, know that the slum of Mexico City (Neza-Chalco-Itza) harboured around 4 million people in 1990 – understand, though, that exact numbers are difficult to assess as population counting in such areas is near-impossible. That means that Neza-Chalco-Itza (Ciudad Neza) had a population as large as that of countries like today’s Moldova, Croatia, Panama, or Kuwait. Thankfully, things have developed since then (continuing to do so as of this day) and only about 1.2 million people continue to live in such conditions.
However, things are only improving in some parts of the world, for in others, the slums themselves are growing. Before we conclude this article, please take a look at the following list to acquaint yourself with the top 5 largest slums of the world:
5. Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa
Population: Circa 400,000
4. Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya
Population: Circa 700,000
3. Dharavi, Mumbai, India
Population: Circa 1 million
2. Ciudad Neza, Mexico City, Mexico
Population: Circa 1.2 million
1. Orangi Town, Karachi, Pakistan
Population: Circa 2.4 million