This essay excavates the complex politics of water in contemporary Mumbai. In the context of a burgeoning water crisis in the city, it explores in detail how the city’s social and political elites demonize the efforts of inhabitants of Mumbai’s slums to hydrate their communities. Such demonization is paralleled by legal crackdowns and the deliberate destruction of improvised water infrastructure. The essay uses the Mumbai case study to reveal the costs of marginalizing the majority urban poor in global megacities: in public health, death rates, and communicable and waterborne diseases; in the burden of waiting for and carrying water (especially for women and children); in the burden of incurring high water expenses; in water extortion against the poor by predatory rackets; and in the problems of systematic dehydration.

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