Un­rav­el­ling Mum­bai’sDhar­avi

Not much progress has been made with re­spect to de­vel­op­ing hous­ing in Asia’s largest slums

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Anuj Puri let­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com avant-garde The author is Chair­man – ANAROCK Prop­erty Con­sul­tants

Mum­bai’s Dhar­avi, one of the largest slums in Asia, has been an area of con­tention for al­most two decades now. For all its rev­e­la­tions, the re­cent block­buster film ‘Kaala’ only un­der­scored what Mum­baikars, hu­man rights ac­tivists, ur­ban plan­ners and real es­tate de­vel­op­ers have known for decades - there is no sim­ple for­mula for un­rav­el­ling the com­plex Dhar­avi equa­tion.

Oc­cu­py­ing 535 acres of prime land in the very heart of In­dia’s fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal, Dhar­avi could be a source of pure gold for de­vel­op­ers who could get a piece of it.

The Ma­ha­rash­tra State Govern­ment has been ea­ger to re­de­velop Dhar­avi. Build­ing af­ford­able to mid-range hous­ing projects here would com­pletely rein­vent the res­i­den­tial real es­tate equa­tion of Cen­tral Mum­bai an­dalso makea­ma­jor­con­tri­bu­tion to the Cen­tral Govern­ment’s Hous­ing for All by 2022 tar­get. How­ever, bar­ring a few build­ings con­structed by MHADA in sec­tor V, things have not pro­gressed much on the Dhar­avi re­de­vel­op­ment front. Ear­lier, there was a lot of spec­u­la­tion that the Mum­bai De­vel­op­ment Plan (DP) would pro­vide more clar­ity on this, but the am­bi­gu­ity con­tin­ued.


The plan was to di­vide Dhar­avi into five sec­tors for eas­ier re­de­vel­op­ment. In Oc­to­ber of this year, the state cabi­net gave the green sig­nal for re­de­vel­op­ing the en­tire 535 acres by set­ting up a spe­cial pur­pose ve­hi­cle (SPV) and float­ing just one global ten­der for the en­tire project (with 80% pri­vate sec­tor and 20% govern­ment stakes).

In­ter­est­ingly, the State Govern­ment also quashed its ear­lier plan of re­de­vel­op­ing Dhar­avi as only a res­i­den­tial clus­ter. In­stead, it is now look­ing to trans­form the re­gion into a hub for busi­ness and com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity as well. The Govern­ment has also ex­tended fis­cal sops and in­di­rect sub­si­dies to the project, in­clud­ing waiver of stamp duty on the de­vel­op­ment rights agree­ment and the first sale of the saleable area.

What it boils down to is that the INR26,000 crore-worthDhar­avi re­de­vel­op­ment project is re­peat­edly tak­ing U-turns to at­tract de­vel­op­ers into a highly com­plex, though po­ten­tially lu­cra­tive and def­i­nitely a gamechang­ing un­der­tak­ing. How­ever, given the cash-crunch that de­vel­op­ers are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing now, it seems un­likely that even large play­ers will come for­ward and take up the chal­lenge to build this highly cost-in­ten­sive mega project.

How­ever, the big­gest ques­tion is of land own­er­ship and re­lo­ca­tion of its ex­ist­ing in­hab­i­tants. In terms of land own­er­ship, al­most one-fifth of the land here is pri­vately-owned. In terms of reha- bil­i­tat­ing the ex­ist­ing oc­cu­pants, one needs to keep in mind that as many as 60,000 fam­i­lies cur­rently live in Dhar­avi.

As per the re­de­vel­op­ment pol­icy, a de­vel­oper can get the slum land only af­ter ob­tain­ing per­mis­sion to do so from at least 70% of the slum dwellers. There­after, hehasto re­house the slumd­wellers free of cost in multi-storey ten­e­ments of at least 270 sq. ft. car­pet area per house­hold.

Ear­lier, only slum dwellers who­had­doc­u­mentsto­provethat they had been liv­ing in Dhar­avi prior to Jan­uary 1, 2000, were el­i­gi­ble for this scheme. How­ever, the cur­rent State Govern­ment has now de­cided that even those who live in dwellings con­structed af­ter this cut-off date need to be re­ha­bil­i­tated. To this ef­fect, the hous­ing depart­ment pro­posed mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the Ma­ha­rash­tra Slum Act, 1971 in 2017-end.


The Dhar­avi re­de­vel­op­ment project, when com­pleted, can change the en­tire real es­tate sce­nario here. Dhar­avi rubs shoul­ders with up­mar­ket Ban­dra and is right next to the Ban­dra-Kurla Com­plex. This makes Dhar­avi an in­cred­i­bly at­trac­tive propo­si­tion for home­buy­ers, in­vestors and de­vel­op­ers alike.

If it were to take place as in­tended, Dhar­avi’s re­de­vel­op­ment will also in ease the res­i­den­tial pres­sure on South Mum­bai lo­cal­i­ties and open new av­enues for fur­ther de­vel­op­ment. Be­sides be­ing a res­i­den­tial clus­ter, Dhar­avi is also a ma­jor eco­nomic hub where peo­ple pro­duce a wide ar­ray of goods and ser­vices in­clud­ing leather bags, pot­tery, snacks etc.

The area is now be­ing pro­moted as Mum­bai’s new busi­ness dis­trict. Re­de­vel­op­ing such a prom­i­nent res­i­den­tial-cum­com­mer­cial zone would be a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic tri­umph for an in­cum­bent Govern­ment. How­ever, as of now, weare nowhere near to be­ing close to such a for­tu­itous cul­mi­na­tion of the Dhar­avi story.

For all we know, a par­tic­u­larly in­sight­ful film that fo­cuses on real-time so­lu­tions could even­tu­ally pro­vide an an­swer. Cer­tainly, ur­ban plan­ners and Govern­mentshavenot­been­able to do this.



The plan was to di­vide Dhar­avi into five sec­tors for eas­ier re­de­vel­op­ment

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