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What is the Dharavi redevelopment project? Here is all you need to know

Eighteen years have gone since the plan to redevelop Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world, was first proposed. Here we find out its history and what lies ahead for the project

Dharavi Redevelopment Project

Nandini Singh New Delhi

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The Maharashtra government on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for fresh tenders in the Dharavi redevelopment project, almost two decades after it was first proposed. We explain what the project entails, why it has been delayed and what lies ahead.

What is Dharavi?

Dharavi stands on a slice of prime land in the heart of Mumbai. It is just a stone’s throw from India’s most affluent business district, the Bandra-Kurla Complex, where commercial office premiums are among the highest in the country.

The sprawling slum, spread over 2.8 sq km, is home to an informal leather and pottery industry that employs over 100,000 people.

What is the Dharavi redevelopment project?

In 2004, the Maharashtra state government had envisaged Dharavi to be transformed into a cluster of high-rises with improved urban infrastructure. The project included relocating 68,000 people, including slum dwellers and those with commercial establishments.

The state was to provide 300 sq ft houses for free to residents with proof that their slum structure was in existence before January 1, 2000, and for a price to those who settled in Dharavi between 2000 and 2011.

But the project never got off the ground due to various reasons.

What is the history of the Dharavi redevelopment project?

In 2004, the Maharashtra government decided to redevelop Dharavi as an integrated planned township. An action plan for redevelopment was approved by issuing a government resolution.

It was decided to develop Dharavi by using land as a resource to cross-subsidise the cost of development through a sale component based on the slum rehabilitation scheme, by dividing it into sectors and appointing developers for the same.

In addition, the government also decided to notify Dharavi as an undeveloped area and appoint a special planning authority to oversee its development.

Special purpose vehicle for Dharavi

In 2011, the government cancelled all tenders and developed a master plan. In 2018, the BJP-Sena government formed a special-purpose vehicle for Dharavi and notified it of the redevelopment project. Later, global tenders were invited.

Why did the Dharavi redevelopment project fail to take off?

In November 2018, the then Fadnavis-led government approved a new model for the slum’s redevelopment. Although Dubai-based infrastructure firm Seclink Technologies Corporation turned out to be a successful bidder in January 2019 against Adani, the tender was not awarded following the decision to include Railway land in the redevelopment project.

In October 2020, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government cancelled the tender and stated that new tenders would be floated soon.

The MVA government claimed that one of the reasons for cancelling the tender was the delay by the Centre in transferring the railway land, which was critical to the project.

Bids for the Dharavi dream

The bids for the Dharavi redevelopment project were opened again at the end of November 2022, and the Adani group emerged as the highest bidder.

SVR Srinivas, the chief executive officer of the Dharavi redevelopment project, said the conglomerate led by billionaire Gautam Adani submitted a bid of Rs 5,069 crore for the project, while the DLF Group quoted Rs 2,025 crore.

"There were three bidders in total," Srinivas was reported to have told The Economic Times (ET).

"However, only Adani and DLF were qualified in the final bidding and the other bidder, Naman Group didn't qualify," he said.

From slum to glitzy hub

Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani, during the group's annual general meeting (AGM), reminisced about his first encounter with Dharavi in the late 1970s, when he was captivated by the vibrant mix of cultures and languages from across India.

Adani stated that he is committed to providing new homes to eligible residents while also preserving the spirit and soul of Dharavi throughout the transformation process.

He added that after the redevelopment, visitors like former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, who had expressed an interest in visiting Dharavi, will find the neighbourhood just as "spirited and alive" as it has always been.

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First Published: Jul 21 2023 | 5:49 PM IST

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