The Undoing of Dharavi’s Redevelopment

This article in the Economic Times (Calls to scrap Dharavi makeover gain ground) highlights the tailspin that the Dharavi redevelopment plan has been in. Having gone from a proposal that attracted the interest of bidders from all over the world to one that started to repel investors and citizen stakeholders, the situation underlines the lack of a working model for all stakeholders to work together in a transparent fashion. It unfortunately may deepen public mistrust of developers and public officials among the residents of Dharavi.

The article suggests that removing Dharavi’s special redevelopment status will make it more likely a candidate for the state’s cluster redevelopment policies. Ideally, this policy is aimed at rehabilitating areas with dilapidated buildings and providing integrated services and amenities, like parks and social infrastructure – all within a public-private partnership model that yields sufficient profitability for developers.

The policy has had its detractors as it increases the FSI allowable to 4 and raises questions about maintenance of buildings that may be too high for poor residents to afford. Cluster redevelopment has also experienced some notable setbacks with the highly publicized plans to redevelop Bhendi Bazar by the Dawoodi Bohras falling afoul of the 70% approval needed by existing residents and landowners in a redevelopment area.

Current objectives for the city include slum rehabs to rehouse 6 million people in 10 years at a cost of EUR 978 million and “reconstruction” of 10,000 dilapidated buildings for EUR 267 million. It’s going to require equally ambitious complementary investments in sewer, water, drainage, transport, roads and much more. Given the scale of the transformation necessary, more cooperation and transparency between private and public will be necessary to ensure that Mumbaikers in these areas are properly served but also that the capital that investors bring to the table is being adequately managed and rewarded.

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