Dharavi development project inches ahead

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Redevelopment of Asia's largest slum, launched decade ago, has made progress despite hurdles. (AP) Redevelopment of Asia's largest slum, launched decade ago, has made progress despite hurdles. (AP)
SummaryRedevelopment of Asia's largest slum, launched decade ago, has made progress despite hurdles.

The redevelopment of Asia’s largest slum, launched a decade ago, has made progress despite hurdles. The magnitude of the problem is immense, and if Maharashtra can pull this off, it can set an example

One of the largest slums in Asia, Dharavi, could be in for a metamorphosis despite the tug-of-war between various interest groups. The Maharashtra government expects the first phase of the slum redevelopment of Dharavi to be ready by the yearend. But as Mumbai airport redevelopment project shows public private realty project runs the risk of getting tangled in a maze in the city.

Dharavi is a 240-hectare slum situated in central Mumbai. The adjoining areas are lucrative real estate hot spots such as Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), Sion, Mahim and Bandra among others.

The huge floor-plate to be released after redevelopment of about 60,000 plus shanties would be the one of the biggest ticket size for real estate projects. While the proximity to various railways stations, arterial roads and the highway makes this location attractive the obstacles are the asymmetric information and financial power of the residents vis a vis the developers. The other problem is there is no one comprehensive solution for the development of the area.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

“Last month, Ernst & Young won the bid as management consultant for the project. It will now help in revamping sector 1 to 4. They will also conduct feasibility study, explore alternatives and suggest the tendering process,” said an official from Dharavi Redevelopment Authority (DRA).

To tackle the issue of size, the authorities have sub-divided 4 sectors into 13 sub-zones. “The government is now planning to invite phase wise or sub-zone wise bids. Breaking up of sectors into phases would facilitate the bidding process as stakes would be lower and process would be focused.

However, the outline and core norms would continue as township. Although one developer can bid for all phases or cluster, or several developers can pick up one phase each in a sub-sector, the physical dimensions of the old sector will remain the same. The entire process will be monitored by a regulator,” added the official.

Interestingly, out of 240 hectares, railway land, a receiving station of Tata Power and already developed plots are excluded. Also about 28 per cent of the population has sought exclusion or permission for self-development.

According to an official MHADA is constructing in its first phase, a high rise with three wings of 14 to 18 floors each in Sector 5. There would be about 356 tenements of 300 sq ft each. This is expected to be ready by 2014.

Eligibility

As per the eligibility criteria, all slum-dwellers residing prior to January 1, 2000, are eligible for rehabilitation i.e. free housing. However, earlier surveys carried out by a Government arm and by an NGO here show only 20 to 35 per cent of the slum-dwellers are eligible as per the records. Besides, there is also a confusion about who should be considered eligible — a slum-occupant or owner of that slum or both?

All these have taken political colour as these occupants, whose numbers run into lakhs, are important vote-banks. The demand for a fresh survey to ascertain the correct number of eligible families would mean it will take years to come to an agreed figure.

“Every survey creates new list of eligibility and later it is blamed of being wrong... nobody is clear about who should be given free house... Now even people residing on the lofts of the shanties are demanding space ... I do not know when will we get our dream house... may be when my daughter’s daughter is ready for marriage,’ says Ramanna Pondel, (name changed), a worker in pottery unit in Kumbhar wada segment of Dharavi .

Size of the new unit

The main tussle between the locals and the authorities is about the size of the new unit which the slum-dwellers will get free of cost after redevelopment. At present, the government is giving 300 sq ft homes to those residing in smaller slums and 400 sq ft homes to those staying in larger shanties.

However, some political parties and a few activist groups are demanding 400 sq ft homes for all slum dwellers. “The government is going to earn huge amount of revenue in future from selling the commercial area after shifting us. Then why can’t we secure our future? Why can’t they give some more space for our growing families?” says Nandu Jatti (name changed), residing in Sector-3.

Some political outfits and activist groups have already threatened to stop the work until the demand for 400 sq ft homes is not met with. In fact, MHADA had to carry out its work with the help and the protection of the police.

Space for commercial users: Dharavi is also famous for its small scale manufacturing units such as that of garments, leather, pottery, food processing, imitation jewelry, oil and chemical container recycling etc. The modest estimate of annual turnover of these businesses crosses Rs 200 crore. These units have spaces ranging from 200 sq ft to 1,000 sq.ft. These businesses are also demanding more space over and above what is offered to them and that too free, and at the same place. Many of these units are dealing with toxic and highly polluting materials. Gifting larger spaces and allowing such material officially may not be possible under present policies and regulations.

Private land owners

Since plots in Dharavi are basically owned by private entities they have to be merged to make larger floor-plates for bigger structures to come up to rehabilitate more slum dwellers.

However, many private land owners are refusing to join the initiative. Either they are asking astronomical price for their piece of land or are asking for permission for self-development. Both are not advisable in a project of this magnitude.

Efforts are underway to convince them to join-in. There are efforts to acquire railway land as well. However, both these issues will take time and big investments, making this project more expensive, delayed and in turn potentially less viable.

It has been almost a decade since the Dharavi project began. It is now at a critcal state. The problems it faces and the alternatives it will come up with, will be an example for such projects in other states.

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