Dharavi, Asia's largest slum, is usually spoken of as a hell-hole and a shame for urban India. Here is a very different viewpoint. "Look beyond the stereotype," says urban development consultant Prakash M. Apte, "and you'll find a successful settlement with a vibrant community and economy. But developers want to raze it all and start again ... Dharavi is a model that should be replicated, not redeveloped."
The Indian megacity of Mumbai has an estimated population of about 14 million. Of those, only about 35% live in 'regular' permanent housing. The other 65% live in informal settlements, which for more than a third of those people means squatting on sidewalks and under bridges. The rest -- nearly 6 million people -- occupy settlements on private and public open lands, some of which are more than 50 years old. Dharavi is one of the most famous, but unlike all others and despite its common depiction as a "slum", it is actually a successful work-cum-residential settlement. Developers have been trying to redevelop the area for years, but Dharavi is a model settlement that needs to be replicated, not replaced.
Located in the heart of Mumbai, Dharavi has a population of more than 600,000 people residing in 100,000 makeshift homes, and one of the world’s highest population densities at more than 12,000 persons per acre. It is just across from the Bandra- Kurla Complex—a fast developing commercial center that has overtaken Nariman Point, the current downtown of Mumbai—and is also located close to Mumbai’s domestic and international airports. Despite its plastic and tin structures and lack of infrastructure, Dharavi is a unique, vibrant, and thriving 'cottage' industry complex, the only one of its kind in the world.
More here (browse the comments too). Below is a related TED Talk by Robert Neuwirth who finds "squatter cities—where a billion people now make their homes—to be thriving centers of ingenuity and innovation." Check out another TED Talk by Steward Brand on squatter cities.