Growing Pains In The Land Of Bollywood An influx of investment and new residents has brought great prosperity to the Indian metropolis of Mumbai, home to the Bollywood movie industry. However, with the emergence of "New" Mumbai, wealth disparities have been exposed and difficulties confronted.

Growing Pains In The Land Of Bollywood

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DEBORAH AMOS, host:

One of the world's cities is so large it's reproducing itself. That city is Mumbai, with nearly 14 million people on the shores of India. It's a financial center and an entertainment capital. We'll visit there as part of The Urban Frontier, our series on the world's growing cities.

Mumbai, or Bombay, as it was known, is so crowded, developers have started over building New Mumbai. Here's NPR's Phillip Reeves.

PHILLIP REEVES: Caked in dust and dressed in rags, this boy is just trying to make a living. He's so small, many of the sea of people sweeping past don't notice he's there. An emaciated figure, age about six, begging at knee level. He works one of the world's toughest beats.

It's not that people here don't have money - there are plenty of rich people around - this city is where India's money gets invested, where the business is done. Property prices rival Manhattan or London. But at knee level on the streets, competition's as fierce as it is on the stock exchange.

Half of Mumbai lives in slums, and the poor keep on arriving - hundreds every day - lured out to the countryside by the whiff of wealth.

(Soundbite of train rolling)

REEVES: The best way to see Mumbai is by train. It's a little dangerous. Some commuter trains are so jammed passengers just fall out. Hundreds of passengers die every year, but at least the trains move, unlike the traffic on the clogged-up roads. The city's bursting at the seams. Just look out of the train window.

There are shacks, people living in them beside the railway tracks. They're washing, spread out on the ground. There are blistered apartment blocks crammed full of people. A lot of trash, open drains. You can smell them sometimes.

Mumbai was built by the Arabian Sea on a on a cluster of small islands that were eventually leveled to make one big island. The city can't grow sideways anymore, only upwards. Pasted on the wall of our train there's advertisement. It shows a metropolis lit up like Las Vegas, sprouting out of the landscape. It's called Navi Mumbai - Navi means new. That's where we're going now.

We've left Mumbai now and we're running along the coastline. To my right is the sea and some mangrove swamps. On the other side of the bay we can now see rising on the skyline these high-rise modern buildings, and that's Navi Mumbai, new Mumbai. From here it looks quite impressive.

Ashook Menon's(ph) going there too for a business appointment. He's got a good job in the shipping business and an inherited family home in Mumbai. He says he couldn't afford to buy a house in Mumbai these days.

Mr. ASHOOK MENON (Navi Mumbai Resident): Someone who wants to have their own property in Mumbai, either they must be very, very rich or they should probably get an inheritance (unintelligible) it's not likely that you could afford a property in Bombay anymore.

REEVES: New Mumbai is considerably cheaper. We've arrived. We're sitting in what is now a cafe but was once a mangrove swamp.

Mr. FRANK GOMEZ: The place that we are sitting on right now was total water. This whole area is all water. It was water. It's now become land and now it's developed.

REEVES: Frank Gomez lives in Navi Mumbai.

Mr. GOMEZ: There are malls all over, there are hotels all over. Quite good.

REEVES: Gomez is 22. That's only six years below the average age here.

Work began on creating Navi Mumbai in 1970. The idea was to take pressure off the old city. The new city's entirely planned. For a long time the project stagnated, but when the economy began to boom, big new companies moved in. They include India's largest private sector company, Reliance, led by the industrial magnate Mukesh Ambani. It's investing vast sums in the city.

The New Mumbai has glistening shopping malls where people play indoor cricket. It also has some two million inhabitants, including Sushmi Tasse(ph).

Do you like it here?

Ms. SUSHMI TASSE: Oh yes. Oh yes. I just hate Mumbai.

REEVES: What do you like about it?

Ms. TASSE: The space, there's so much space. We are a better city, we're a prettier city.

REEVES: These are the young men who keep Navi Mumbai pretty. Difeen, Ranjeet and Pankash(ph). For 12 hours a day, six days a week, they clean malls. They get $120 a month. Ninety-eight percent of the people of Navi Mumbai are literate. These three have missed out. They can't afford the boutiques and bars. For them this place is far from utopian, nor is it utopia for this man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BHITTU SAHGAL (Environmentalist): Utopia? Navi Mumbai, good Lord. The first step to hell, if you ask me.

REEVES: Environmentalist Bhittu Sahgal thinks Navi Mumbai is being built in the wrong place.

Mr. SAHGAL: I would wager if you spoke to 1,000 people perhaps one might even know that there is something called climate change which is an issue. And Navi Mumbai is almost all created at sea level.

REEVES: Sahgal says Navi Mumbai is on land that belonged to indigenous village people.

Mr. SAHGAL: There were small farmers there and there was mangroves - mangroves and currents. Probably feed 25 percent of all humanity on Earth.

Mr. KISHORE RATHOD (News Editor, DNA): We may have hacked some mangroves but then we have a whole new city to talk about.

REEVES: That's Kishore Rathod. He's news editor at the Navi Mumbai office of the newspaper DNA. For years he was a beat reporter here. For a long time he thought the city would fail.

Mr. RATHOD: There were no trees, there was no greenery. People used to say it's a malaria-infested place. It was a nightmare.

REEVES: Rathod's changed his mind. He says Navi Mumbai's adding at least 100,000 people a year.

Mr. RATHOD: And these people are earning good money. Now they are earning salaries upwards of 30,000 rupees, 40,000 rupees. Where will they spend that? They need the malls. They need the food courts. They need the multiplexes. They need the theaters.

REEVES: Apparently they also need fancy cars.

Mr. RATHOD: You have the Hummers flying on the roads of Navi Mumbai. You have the Ferraris flying on the roads of Navi Mumbai. Now America is going to small cars, and we are talking about big cars.

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: On the horizon immediately in front of me is New Mumbai. But on this spot where I'm actually standing surrounded by litter, there is a line of little shelters made out of wood and plastic sheeting. And under one of those, R.B. Boya, a fisherman, is treating his boat, made out of mango tree wood, in preparation for another night's fishing in the polluted waters that stand between these two cities - the old Mumbai and the new.

R.B. Boya is a Coli(ph). The Colis have fished these waters since way back. Boya says he's paying the price for India's urban explosion. Some days he catches nothing because the water's so badly polluted. He's more resigned than angry.

Mr. R.B. BOYA (Fisherman): (Through translator) What use is anger? No one listens to us poor people.

(Soundbite of drill)

REEVES: Getting your voice heard isn't easy. Builders are hard at work. There are plans for an international airport. This year five new malls will open. Rathod, the newspaper man, expects his city to change even more in the next few years.

Mr. RATHOD: This place will probably be more populated, probably more congested, probably more noisy, but much more rocking.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News.

AMOS: Tomorrow we visit another developing city on the urban frontier - it's Khartoum in Sudan. And an old Mumbai resident tells how she learned to love that bustling city at NPR.org.

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