'Redevelopment disguises landgrab'

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

Government's expert panel rejects Dharavi plan

THE Dharavi slum redevelopment project has been called a sophisticated form of land grab by urban planners and housing experts who were appointed by the Maharashtra government. In January, they were asked to advise the state on implementing the project.

The committee headed by former state chief secretary D M Sukthankar issued an open letter in early July giving details of the recommendations made to the government after the authorities refused to acknowledge the issues raised in the report. The experts urged the government to "give up the notion of making profit out of the project and focus on the interests of residents of Dharavi instead". Under the scheme, the shanties spread over 2 sq km (0.8 ha) in the heart of Mumbai would give way to 28 sqm sized flats stacked in multi-storey buildings.

These apartment blocks will occupy less than half the land spread. The land released from the occupation of the slum dwellers will be given to builders for commercial projects (see 'Dharavi's real estate threat', Down To Earth, November 30, 2007). The bidding process for the Rs 15,000 crore project will start on July 30.

Local residents have been opposing the rehabilitation scheme saying it does not provide workspace. "Every household in Dharavi is a mini-cottage industry. People earn their living by making papad, garments, recycling plastics and from pottery. Flats in skyscrapers are not suitable for these activities," said Raju Korde of Dharavi Bachao Samiti.

The committee in its report said the residents have established not just homes but thriving businesses that need to be protected. "The proximity of the residences with workplaces is what makes businesses efficient and competitive," the report said. Dharavi is already a densely populated area with 314,887 persons per sq km; adding more people would be catastrophic, the report said. The planners called for an alternative approach to redeveloping Dharavi.

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