After numerous unsuccessful attempts over past several years, the ambitious Dharavi Redevelopment Project has now been awarded to Dubai-based Seclink Technology Corporation (STC). With the company backed by the royal family of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), funds are not likely to be the problem this time. However, getting local residents on board and effectively addressing the socio-economic fallout from such a massive project will be crucial to get the project moving, experts feel.
With over half a million people crammed into 525 acres, Dharavi is probably one of the densest, largest and oldest informal settlements in the world. Located close to suburban railway stations and Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex business district, the value of the land alone is estimated at over `10,000 crore. The annual turnover of small industries thriving in the slums (from pottery and leather to textile and recycling) is estimated to be around `500 crore. However, attempts to redevelop this treasure trove bustling with human capital have been consistently marred by policy failures.
The very first attempt to do so dates back to 1971. The ‘Slum Improvement Program (SIP)’ sought to provide basic amenities like water, electricity, sanitation and waste disposal to residents, but could not be taken up due the lack of reliable data. This is a problem that still exists 48 years later.
Subsequent attempts like the one in 1975 to give it legitimate status, the World Bank-funded Slum Upgradation Program (SUP) in 1985 and the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRS) of 1995 had failed to make any significant contribution until 2004’s Dharavi Redevelopment Project (DRP) was proposed. While the SRS scheme introduced the idea of providing in situ formal housing, the 2004 project took it to next level promising 300 sq ft houses in apartment towers. But, none of these have seen the light of
Some hurdles like lack of adequate data and land titles in Dharavi, which led to inordinate delays and escalating expenses, have been examined several times. But, the failure to take Dharavi-residing representatives on board and a lack of common standards for housing have been major stumbling blocks, being perceived as threats to the existing community network and underlying economy of Dharavi. The poor quality and unaffordable maintenance costs of the new houses have also adversely affected the projects.
Coming up with a new model to address all these concerns will be a challenge for STC.
The firm’s current plan aims to use 200 acres for rehabilitation of residents and commercial units, 100 acres for a large garden and 300 acres for constructing commercial complexes. The plan promises 350 sq ft houses for the slum’s dwellers even as earlier estimates of 58,000 required tenements have gone up to 1 lakh. While the land use plan for the slum is ready, STC is to prepare the master plan, with the project expected to be completed in nine years. Authorities are also banking on getting 80 acres of railway land adjacent to Dharavi.