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‘Flaw’ sends Dharavi project back to drawing board

The much-delayed Dharavi Redevelopment Plan is set to return to the drawing board,with little hope of an early launch to what is an ambitious and critical part of the Mumbai Makeover project.

Written by Kavitha Iyer | Mumbai |
October 29, 2009 12:52:41 am

LATE DISCOVERY Fraction of targeted beneficiaries eligible,bid now to create more,smaller sectors

The much-delayed Dharavi Redevelopment Plan is set to return to the drawing board,with little hope of an early launch to what is an ambitious and critical part of the Mumbai Makeover project.

Five years after the government passed a resolution to implement the multi-crore project with a special-township approach,an expert committee appointed by the government is now working on an “alternative” plan. The re-look has been prompted by the realisation that the project,in its current form,will benefit only a fraction of the target group.

With an entirely new plan proposed,not only are further delays imminent,but allegations that the new proposal is designed only at scuttling the existing project are also expected,officials and stakeholders said.

Worse,while senior bureaucrats ostensibly studied the current project design for several months before declaring a special FSI of 4,officials are now debating “basic conceptual flaws” in the scheme.

MHADA vice-president and officer on special duty for the project Gautam Chatterjee confirmed he has written to the chief secretary asking for a “re-look at the criteria for eligibility of slumdwellers” after an initial assessment for one of Dharavi’s current five sectors showed that only about 38 per cent of the residents had proof of having lived there since before 2000. All slum-dwellers who settled in Dharavi before January 1,2000,are eligible for free 269 sq ft homes under the scheme.

The new proposal includes carving up the 239-hectare slum into about 50 sectors instead of the current five,with slumdwellers in each cluster themselves appointing developers instead of the government picking developers through a tender process that’s already under way. “We are working on the plan,” said D M Sukhthankar,former chief secretary and now on the expert committee overseeing the project. He said the proposal was still at an early stage.

Officials in MHADA said the idea was to divide the slum into clusters of about 1,000 huts,with conventional SRA schemes taking off in each cluster. Instead of appointing developers for each sector to raze shanties and build commercial and residential towers,the government would pay for amenities and integration among the smaller clusters so that the idea of a new Dharavi township is salvaged.

Under the existing project design,since the onus of moving slumdwellers and handing over cleared land to private developers remains on the government,such large numbers of ineligible slum-dwellers are an unpalatable political challenge.

However,Sukhthankar admitted that it remains unclear whether smaller clusters would automatically solve the problem of low eligibility ratio among slumdwellers. The issue of how to redevelop the slum and that of who qualifies for free re-housing are two separate issues,he said. “We have to look at it carefully because any step we take could set a precedent,” he said.

“We will not allow any further delays,” insisted recently re-elected MLA Varsha Gaikwad. “People in Dharavi have not been able to undertake any development since the GR of 2004 because slum rehabilitation schemes have been disallowed so as to not hamper the township approach. People are desperate for the project to take off,” she said. Gaikwad added that she would push for all structures in Dharavi built before 2000 to be protected and their occupants declared eligible for rehousing regardless of whether they moved in before or after 2000.

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