Mumbai Slum A Battleground Between Dwellers and Developers

The battle over development continues in Dharavi, the largest slum in India. Its valuable location in Mumbai has had developers' mouths watering for years, but residents have resisted their drive to demolish and rebuild the slum.

"With the economy and consumption soaring, recycling is good business here, a source of jobs for thousands, from scavengers to sorters to manufacturers."

"Their collective toil is just part of the daily bustle in this teeming shantytown in India's financial and entertainment capital. About half a million people live and work in Dharavi -- recyclers, tailors, leather tanners, laundrymen, potters, cloth dyers and shopkeepers, all jammed into a single square mile of narrow alleys and rickety buildings made from corrugated metal sheets."

"They are some of Mumbai's poorest residents. They also happen to be sitting on some of the world's most valuable real estate."

"Because of their location, Dharavi's residents have been locked for years in a tug of war with government officials who look hungrily at such choice land and dream their own dreams of reincarnation."

"If the officials get their way, the slum will be demolished and reborn as a gleaming collection of high-rise apartments, office towers and manicured parks. Residents who arrived before 2000 would be re-housed elsewhere in Dharavi in small flats of 225 square feet -- smaller than a suburban American garage -- while an influx of richer folk and big companies would turn the area into one of Mumbai's fashionable addresses."

Full Story: Dharavi, India's largest slum, eyed by Mumbai developers

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Dharavi, a battle ground between Developers & Dwellers

Prakash M. Apte
Urban Development Consultant

Dharavi Redevelopment: A Gigantic Fraud

Dharavi is in the heart of Mumbai, just across the Bandra- Kurla Complex (BKC-a fast developing commercial center that has left behind Nariman Point, the current down town of Mumbai) close to the Mumbai domestic and International airports. The Politicians, Bureaucrats and Developers aide and abated by Technocrats are cashing in on the false and adverse publicity given to Dharavi as a 'slum' by western media; by proposing to raze the existing home-cum workplaces of the poor artisans and cramming them in 225 sq. ft cubbyhole high rise 20 storey buildings to get the land so vacated for commercial exploitation by painting colourful computer generated pictures of beautiful building towers set amidst greenery and playfields!

Is Dharavi really a “Shantytown ”? Despite its bamboo and tin roof structures, it is a unique vibrant, thriving cottage industry complex, the only one of its kind in the world where all the raw materials produced and processes (lining cloth, sewing needles & thread, colours & dyes, pigments, skinning, tanning, cutting & tailoring) of the final product (leather bags, fancy lady's purses- pottery etc.) are carried out at the same location and the value added is very high! Families have been engaged in this industry for generations. The very nature of the process of making fine leather goods-pottery etc. requires large tracts of open land for the activity. This is in fact the kind of self sufficient, self sustaining 'village' community that the Father of the Nation -Mahatma Gandhi- dream t of and wrote about in his books on the path India should take for its development. Those claiming to be the heirs to his philosophy should seriously reconsider the Proposal for Remodeling Dharavi the American way!

Let us look at the numbers. The entire land of 535 acres will be available free to the developer. Normally, in the suburbs of Mumbai, Floor Space Index (FSI) permissible is 1.00. However, this being treated as a Slum Redevelopment Scheme, the FSI permissible would be 4.5 (Development Control Regulations-DCR- for Mumbai,1991). It means that, in this land of 535 acres, after deducting statutory open space of 15%, total floor area that could be built will be 4.5 times the balance land (aprox.455 acres) ie. 2047.50 acres ! For rehousing 100,000 families in 225 sq.ft. Carpet area (aprox. 330 sq.ft.built up area) apartments, total floor area required would be around 757.50 acres. This would leave a balance of 1290 acres for 'free sale' by the Developer!

Construction of 100,000 apartments for the existing residents at a carpet area of 225 sq.ft. each will not cost more than Rs.250,000 per apartment (based on cost of resettlement in the World Bank aided MUTP II project recently completed).The total cost of rehousing will therefore be Rs. 2500 million or US $ 56.8 million (current exchange rate of IRs.44=1US $).

Total land (inclusive of roads, open spaces & amenities) required for such 100,000 apartments in 20 storey buildings at the standards permitted by the Slum Redevelopment Authority (SRA) will be about 126.50 acres leaving the balance of 408.50 acres to be used by the Developer for construction of “Free Sale” apartments. At the current price (based on recent sale of land by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority-MMRDA) of around Rs.28000 per sq. mt. of FSI (Floor Space Index) the FSI available for sale on the balance land (1290 acres) would fetch approx.Rs.14448 million, or US $ 328.36 m. Deducting the cost of 100,000 flats (US $ 56.80m.) there would be a clear profit of Rs. 11948 million or US $ 271.56 m., a return of 478% on the investment!!

What is 'unique' about this plan is its Machiavellian attempt to deprive over 100,000 families of their traditional livelihood and home-cum work places so that the land so conveniently located across the BKC can 'host' commercial urban development that can ride piggy back on the infrastructure already created in BKC at the cost of the public exchequer and benefit the developers.

Would it not be just, to give land tenure to the existing residents of Dharavi so that they themselves can redevelop the area and upgrade its physical environment through self help efforts by registering ownership to their piece of land and availing institutional finance? Why is this “In Situ” redevelopment approach invariably suggested by experts all over the world, by the financial institutions like the World Bank for developing countries not being adopted?

1 Because it is simple: The Politicians, Bureaucrats and the
Technocrats (the BPT combine) cannot proclaim their great
VISION unless the solutions are GRANDIOSE and GLAMOROUS,

2 Because it builds on indigenous resources : It therefore precludes taking up grand capital intensive projects that can generate kickbacks for the PBT combine

3 Because the scheme of acquiring over 500 hectares of land in the prime location of Mumbai in the name of slum redevelopment and converting it into a grand real estate development needs “foreign consultants” to generate astronomical profits to be shared by the PBT combine

The so called redevelopment of Dharavi therefore, (apart from being a ruse by the BPT combine to reap a rich harvest of millions of dollars for their personal benefit) is the biggest and cruelest perfidy perpetrated on the poor of Mumbai in the name of improving the urban infrastructure and converting Mumbai into Shanghai or whichever city is fancied as a “Model” at the time of such fraud!

Prakash M Apte

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