We fell into conversation with a recent architecture and urban planning graduate of KRVIA, Adityas. We moved the conversation to our corner office (have you noticed how we enjoy being able to say that we had our own corner office with a window?!).
Adityas was very open and highly critical of the current government plans. One of the highlights of the conversation was the lack of transparency in the entire process and implementation of redevelopment.
He explained to us that SPARC is working with KRVIA in order to critique the current plan and to put together an alternative plan for Dharavi. “The government plan is developer driven and profit centric.”
The original plan that was created was to divide Dharavi into 5 separate sectors. This was done without any sensitivity to the actual location and people. “Dharavi was seen as a clean slate where lines were drawn as they pleased.” This sounds very similar to the scramble for Africa in the 1800s.
The government made it clear that they did not have the funds to finance the redevelopment, so the money had to come from the market. This means that private entities would be the leaders in the redevelopment and re-housing and thus no strict regulations would apply. The government is not involved in listening to the community, rather they expect the developers will be taking the residents’ views into account when creating and implementing their plans. The government is not involved, Adityas says, because it is easier to change policies or to stay out of it if a developer chooses a wrong plan. The government would then still be out of it.
Developers plans included housing residents in 17 to 18 story apartments which would free up more space for commercial use not by residents. Residents were able to negotiate to have 6% of the redeveloped land be for their own industry. The developers however, want to be able to use land at a ratio of 1:33 for their own commercial use. This continues to show the anti-slum driven sentiment in the policies. SPARC opposes this sector plan. The advisory committee, on which SPARC sits, has told the developers in June 2008 that they are not in favor of the 17 to 18 story buildings.
There are certain requirements that have been set by the government for the redevelopment. They are: a floor space index (FSI) at 4 which is a very high number), a 1:33 ratio for free-sale commercial use, and the fact that Dharavi will be divided into sectors. “Through these guidelines we need to create a new approach or to make the redevelopment more humane.” SPARC would prefer the following: no buildings above 12 floors, for there to be design guidelines to the homes, there be open spaces in the sectors, 6% of the land be set aside for commercial industry of the residents, spaces between buildings has to be set, and other necessary amenities as requested by the residents.
The plans for redevelopment have not been made public. Because Chatterji is in power and he is sympathetic to the slum residents, he passed along the information.
There were 20 contractors or consortiums bidding for the redevelopment. Due to the financial crisis there are now only 14 bidders. The bidders needed to present their plans for the 5-sector redevelopment to the Office of Slum Development (OSD) and to the Advisory Committee. According Adityas, the OSD announced that the developers have to show plans to the communities and that the community and has to have a voice in the designs. But this voice might not be as important as that of other stakeholders. Previously, it was decided that there had to be a 75% consent by the people but this is no longer the case. The consent was going to be arrived at by going door to door. The OSD says that the developers are chosen by community participation, but it’s unclear how true this is.
Adityas’ major concern was that the redevelopment plans are too big, “It needs to be done at a worm’s eye view, at street level.” He also suggested that development start in a small part of Dharavi, and then based on the results move on to another. “We need time to experiment, to find out what will work.”
Each of the consortiums is backed by a different politician. In our opinion, this probably makes the process all the more complex.
We asked Adityas if he had any preference between the 14 bidders. He said that, “there were only 2 or 3 consortiums that really got it. Others see it like a housing project, like a beautification project. Those that got it provided good typology which had use of mixed use materials and were sensitive to requirements (building heights), had a phased strategy for clearing, and worked more with low rise and high density options.” Why don’t they all think about the sensitivity, we wondered? “It depends on their ethics, there are no extra incentives. It’s all about the effort that they are willing to put into the thought for being sensitive to the residents’ needs.” The advisory committee provided critiques in February 2009 and then the consortiums have to redevelop their plans based on what they were told. Nothing has since happened. This could in part be due to the fact that elections happened in October 2009.
Should the redevelopment happen? “If you leave the area as it is, there is no money from the government that will come in. There are questions of safety standards, hygiene, and flooding that need to be addressed. This should be redeveloped. Some land should also go back to the city because it is a strategic location.”
Vinisha asked what would, in his opinion, happen if secure tenureships were provided. “This is something that has not been done anywhere. If you have fixed tenureships the fear is that the people will resell the land that they were just given and then move into slums elsewhere. But, it hasn’t been done before so we’re not sure how it would change the issue.” Another comment that Adityas made, which is important to remember is that, “Informal sectors work because they are informal and not necessarily lucrative enough. So maybe we are not really helping them if we formalize everything.”
“Right now we are working on voicing what will not work, because we do not know what will work.”