Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

The Makeover - 23rd June, 2007. Times Property (Times of India)

Dharavi is an extraordinary success story, which will continue to exist with better standards once developed

There are over a million homes in what is often called 'Asia's Largest Slum'. Yet, Dharavi is so much more. Situated between the suburbs of Sion on one side, and Mahim on the other and spread over 2 sq km, it is a thriving business centre. Walking along its maze of alleys and corrugated shacks, home to an estimated 15,000 single-room factories, it becomes difficult to conceive of anything that is not made or recycled here.

Newspaper advertisements were published by the Maharashtra Government in 20 countries inviting a global tender to clean the 535 acres of land for business and development of exclusive high-rise buildings. Developers have been invited to take up the project to redevelop each of five self-sustained sectors planned in Dharavi in order to create a world-class city by 2013. It will be developed in five sectors and the actual project area will be about 144 hectares. About 70 million square feet of construction is envisaged, of which 30 million will be for residential space and amenities while 40 million square feet will be up for free sale.

Prominent developers that have shown interest in the project, include DLF Ltd., Unity Group, Kalpataru Construction Pvt. Ltd., Group, Unitech Ltd., Hiranandani Developers Pvt. Ltd. and companies belonging to the Reliance Industries group and the Anil D Ambani Group. Developers cannot have more than one sector but can bid for all the five sectors. The developer will be evaluated technically and financially by a Committee headed by the Chief Secretary of the Government of Maharashtra. Each developer is required to explain his development strategy in his sector and obtain objectives and suggestions from the residents before starting the development process.

The Rs. 9,300 crore Dharavi Development Plan submitted by Architect Mr. Mukesh Mehta, envisages a complete transformation of the slum which houses some 57,000 families - about 300,000 people who will be accommodated into free but small one bedroom homes in the area. The project is being executed by Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) and bidders will be short listed by September-end.

According to the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) norms the slum dweller whose name appears in the voters list as on 01.01.1995 and who is an actual occupant of the hutment is eligible for rehabilitation. Each family will be allotted a self-contained house of 225 sq.ft carpet area free of cost, in close proximity of Dharavi or in Dharavi itself. The developer will bear the cost on account of rent of the transit tenements but the cost of expenditure of consumables like water, electricity, telephone etc. will have to be borne by the slum dwellers.

About 4500 industrial units primarily engaged in leather works, footwear, gems and jewellery, and pottery business will be rehabilitated in the designated commercial area. Under the policy the units will get 225 sq ft free and the rest of the area would be sold to the units at the construction cost. All the established businesses and manufacturing units will be encouraged and will be provided with modern technical and economical strategies for sustainable development, but hazardous business cannot run in redeveloped Dharavi. The leather industry for which Dharavi is famous will be moved out and only non-polluting non-hazardous industries will be allowed to stay on under the plan. Existing industries have the option of changing to non-hazardous units or shutting down.

The main focus will be on health, income, knowledge, environment and socio cultural integration (HIKES) in the area. The project which also plans five new road networks is expected to take five to seven years to complete.

Keen on a big makeover for Dharavi as a model for other slum redevelopment projects in the city and state, the government has now raised the floor space index for Dharavi, allowing builders to construct and sell more on the same space than they would have otherwise been able to. With a maximum floor space index (FSI) of 4, private lands in the project will have a FSI of 1.3, municipal and Government land 3.1 FSI, and slum houses will have 4 FSI.

The drive will cost Rs.9,300 crore instead of the earlier estimated Rs. 6000 crore because the government has decided to include additional amenities such as schools, colleges and hospitals in its redevelopment package. In the earlier plan, these facilities were to be developed by the municipality at a later stage. Of the total land, 65 per cent would be used for the rehabilitation of the eligible residents; about 35 acres would be allocated for parks and gardens, 36 acres for school and about six acres for medial facilities.

In 2006, the government had planned to issue a similar tender for the redevelopment, but it was derailed as Dharavi residents protested fearing displacement. SRA then shelved the project. The original plan was to issue notices to residents requesting their consent. A 70 per cent vote in favour was required to give the plan the go-ahead. According to recent modifications to the Development Control Regulations this criterion is now altered to 60 per cent with a provision for slum dwellers who don't respond within 30 days of receiving the notices be deemed to have consented.

The project has invited the wrath of Dharavi residents who are running a self-sufficient economy among the narrow lanes of the slum. The first big show of local opposition was with a demonstration on June 18. Apart from the protesting local residents some members of political parties also participated. I do fail to understand if anyone has a vision beyond their political careers. This project uplifts the standard of living for all concerned, there is no downside/negative side to this re development except for the burden on road and transportation and general infrastructure. I hope a substantial part of the funds received by MMRDA is ploughed back into infrastructure development.
Dharavi was not always a slum. Today's Dharavi bears no resemblance to the fishing village it once was. A city within a city, the annual turnover of business here is estimated to be more than $650m (£350m) a year. Dharavi is an extraordinary success story, which will continue to exist with better standards once developed; its recycling industry employs over 250,000 people, yet thanks to its prime location it is on borrowed time.