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Slum redevelopment authority and its questionable plans

Prakash Apte, an architecht and town planner has also been vocal about the profit margins of over 200% the builders consortium will make.

Dharavi is IMO our version of SEZ, it has a GDP of $1 billion. 550 acres with 6 lakh or so people live and work in this space.

This is a well known modus operandi - allow slums to grow on marsh land, which is supposed to have been protected, then regularlise them, then open it for massive construction projects. The SRA steps in to cramp 6 lakh people in to 300 sq feet or less flats and releases rest of the land for private development.

In the past I have written to SRA to voice the following -

  1. SRA must seek clear advise on minimum living space guidance. The preventive and social medicine text books read by every Indian doctor for past 3 decades has been taught that the minimum space is 100 sq feet for first person followed by 50 square feet for every additional member of the family. Indian culture is collective and hence its a norm for extended families to live together, keeping this in mind, one would expect each family to have 5-6 members, this itself takes the required minimum living space to 300 sq feet, well above the 225 sq feet suggested by Mr Mehta.
  2. In UK and EU Parker Morris criterio apply - can Mr Mehta, an Indian American and his multi-national consortium ever dream of getting above plans sanctioned in US or EU? Are Indians any different, are they valued less that these people think its alright to come up with these plans when they would never do something like this to their own.
  3. Given that the above is with regards living space, it should not include the space required for the kitchen, toilet and the bathroom. It thus means that the recommendation by the world bank and demand of the slum dwellers for 400 square feet as the minimum is rational and reasonable and should not be ignored. Indeed the idea of providing all families exactly the same amount of living space is rather communist and will only create gheto's. It will only be fair that a proportion of flats are bigger (and 600-750 sq feet) to acommodate bigger families or those with young sibs (are teenage brothers and sisters to share same rooms - is this the idea of redevelopment, as it breaches every psychological theory of adolescence).

    Cramming families in such small dwellings within highly dense populations is conducive to easy spread of bacteria and viruses, who is to take the blame were there to be a major epidemic, Mr Mehta and the builders, SRA or the Government sanctioning such plans.

    Being a psychiatrist, I can confidently say that making people live in small dwellings is more than likely to cause stress and inter-personal conflicts and there is every likelihood that depression and other mental health disorders will affect these individuals. It is a well published fact that depression takes away 12 productive years and is the second most burdensome disease affecting Indians.
  4. There is no clarity from the plans with regards whether or not asking people to live in small dwellings thereby increasing the population density is in keeping with fire safety norms and if any thought has been given to the method of rapid evacuation if there were a major incident. This week a high rise in London was on fire, even they did not have ladders that go above 100 feet!!
  5. Dharavi is known to have a billion dollar GDP, the nature of work is such that people are working and living in the same space - Its hence is unclear how the fraction (25 acres) of the entire 550 acres will suffice for relocating the small scale industry, surely this is an under-estimate. The very fact that people live and work in smae space means that these 6 lakh people add very little to the burden of transport in Mumbai.

    By virtue of removing the above arrangement, people will have to use public transport / personal transport and consequently add to the pressures on the transport network.

    That 40 million square feet are to be privatised and likely to more than double population of Dharavi is something that needs deep consideration. Mumbai with all the plans of MMRD and spent of 50,000 crores over subway trains, sea links will still not cope with the population destined to reach well past 30 million. This model of redeveloping slums such that population increases even further is to be duplicated when re-housing other slums in Mumbai - has the SRA or any other authority bothered to take cognizance of this fact and demonstrated that this will not strangle the cities already failing transport systems?
  6. Dharavi is India's best example of a SEZ, why not let the residents of Dharavi get soft loans and free land like Tata Nano - let the residents build their own buildings. Any flat less than 500 sq feet is not conducive to humane living, and I see no reason but greed of interested outside parties stopping people from getting 750 sq feet flats. Let people of Dharavi decide their own fate.

So much for PPP

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