In a recent speech at his Foundation for the Built Environment, Prince Charles held up Mumbai's Dharavi slum as a model from which we can learn much about how to improve on urban living. According to the Prince, Dharavi--Mumbai's biggest slum, and the one featured throughout Oscar darling "Slumdog Millionaire"--has much to teach us about urban planning and living.
According to the Prince, wealthy Westerners--if they live in large apartment buildings and condo complexes in urban centers--are themselves living in poverty, because they miss out many of the rich social benefits that living in a communal shantytown can bring. Theirs is a social poverty, and is built on a lifestyle that is not forward-looking in terms of environmental sustainability.
Yet, large shantytowns like Dharavi do not exactly measure up to what one might call sustainable living by any global standard. As David Masters points out on the green web site Fairhome, the Mumbai community holds nearly a million people on just 520 acres, and has roughly one bathroom per 1,400 people.