Newspaper advertisements were published in 20 countries on Wednesday offering “the opportunity of the millennium” for five major developers to take part in the long-delayed and controversial project to redevelop Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum. Some 57,000 families—about 300,000 people—will be moved into free but tiny one-bedroom homes in the area and land will be cleared for business and high-rise flats bounding some of Mumbai’s wealthiest parts.
The sprawl of Dharavi occupies 535 acres between the suburbs of Sion and Kurla on one side and the tony area of Bandra on the other. Real estate prices for commercial properties in the Bandra-Kurla area are ahout Rs25,000-30,000 per sq. ft.
A senior officer at Slum Redevelopment Authority (SRA) said, on condition of anonymity, that in preliminary talks several developers had indicated a high level of interest in the project. He named DLF Ltd, Kalpataru Construction Pvt Ltd, Group, Unitech Ltd, Hiranandani Developers Pvt Ltd and companies belonging to the Reliance Industries group and the Anil D Ambani Group. SRA is the nodal agency for the project.
The project will cost Rs9,300 crore instead of the earlier estimated Rs6000 crore. Mukesh Mehta, the US-trained architect who has been championing the cause of Dharavi for the past 10 years, said this was because the government has now decided to include additional amenities such as schools, colleges and hospitals in its redevelopment package. In the earlier plan, these facilities were to be developed by the municipality at a later stage.
The government of Maharashtra has been keen on taking up the Dharavi redevelopment plan as a model for other slum redevelopment projects in the city and state. Mehta estimates that the total cost of slum redevelopment projects across Mumbai city alone could be as high as Rs90,000 crore.
In February 2006, the government had planned to issue a global tender for the redevelopment of Dharavi, but the plan was derailed as Dharavi residents banded together to protest the planned redevelopment fearing displacement. SRA then shelved the project.
To facilitate the redevelopment, the government had raised the floor space index for Dharavi, allowing developers to build and sell more on the same space than they would have otherwise been able to. It has also said that only 60% of the people living in Dharavi need to approve it for it to go through, against the earlier requirement of 75%. The project has been fiercely condemned by the slum-dwellers, who have created a vibrant self-sufficient economy of potteries, tanneries and other industry among the narrow lanes.
AFP contributed to this story.