It's been almost three decades since Mumbai's airport saw a renovation—a long time, for a city that's seen some of the fastest growth in the world. But on Friday, officials unveiled an £540 million terminal, filled with Indian art and high tech architectural acrobatics. Outside, it's bordered on all sides by poverty-stricken slums.
Terminal 2 was designed by the NYC based Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, which also designed San Francisco Airport and Changi International Airport—two urban airports that, like Mumbai's, were strapped for land. The new terminal has plenty to boast about, including the world's longest cable stayed glass wall and the world's largest public art program—including a mural of Bollywood stars:
And a roofline inspired, according to the architects, by peacocks:
Image: AP/Rajanish Kakade.
But the new terminal also has its critics. Just outside the walls of the airport sits a huge slum, 300 acres of which were razed to make way for the airport expansion. Many of its inhabitants are financially dependent on the rubbish produced by the airport, and the luxury hotels and entertainment centres that have sprung up around it.
In a 2009 New Yorker article, Katherine Boo explains:
The primary industry here is the gathering of airport garbage for recycling—work made a little less miserable by expanded global markets and India's surging G.D.P. Over the past five years, there were enough water bottles, earbuds, Diet Coke cans, used tampon applicators, batteries, and copies of IndianVogue to lift the majority of families over the World Bank's poverty line, which is currently twenty two rupees (£0.22) a day in India's cities.
In fact, the new terminal was long delayed because of problems clearing the slum. "It's an absolute microcosm, representing practically every challenge facing development of Indian infrastructure," one infrastructure expert told NPR.
Image: AP/Dhiraj Singh.
India's economic growth has slowed over the past year, seeing a 5 percent downturn in 2013 alone. Mumbai-based analytics company CRISIL unveiled a new study last week suggesting that the downturn is triggering a "reverse urbanisation" effect, sending newly urbanized labourers back to rural areas in search of work.
So the new terminal, modern as it is, is a mirror for the vast income disparity that runs through the country—a new symbol of old inequality. [NPR]
Images: AP/Rajanish Kakade.