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Children play in the rain outside their house in Natwar Parekh, where tuberculosis rates are notably high.

Children play in the rain outside their house in Natwar Parekh, where tuberculosis rates are notably high.

Photographer: Catherine Davison

CityLab
Design

Urban Design in an Antibiotic-Resistant World: Lessons From Mumbai

Cities once fought disease by improving air flow and access to sunlight. Those early public-health interventions are increasingly relevant today.

A mysterious illness spreading quickly through densely packed slums; the mass exodus of migrant workers from the city; quarantine centers for the sick.

In an eerie foreshadowing of the present-day pandemic, the 1896 arrival of the bubonic plague in Mumbai — then under British rule and known as Bombay — brought life in India’s financial capital to an abrupt standstill. Within months, the disease had spread across the country, with Bombay at its epicenter; an estimated 50,000 died in the city alone.