Kamla Gadnis has lived her entire life in a 200-sq-ft tenement in Tardeo.
She and her husband raised three daughters in the
one-room home, which has all of one cupboard and an mezzanine floor for personal belongings.
Gadnis, like an estimated 15 lakh people living as tenants in the island city’s most crammed housing blocks, may now get a chance to live a little more comfortably in an ownership flat, perhaps even in a larger complex with wider roads and open spaces.
Announced on the eve of elections, the state government’s decision to clear cluster redevelopment is ostensibly based on giving these tenants hope for a better future.
But there’s a hitch: the policy may be doomed even before it takes off. The state has simultaneously cleared Development Control Rule 33 (7), which aims at redevelopment of any pre-1940 cessed building separately, without restrictions on the developer to provide for necessary amenities or infrastructure.
Experts argue that this will prove to be a death knell for the cluster approach as builders would prefer the other option. Urban planner V.K. Phatak said that the state’s simultaneous decisions would lead to haphazard development.
“In the island city, the drainage is about to cave in, water supply is in shortage, parking is in a mess,” said Sharada Dwivedi, conservationist. “The state is planning to add lakhs of new residents without any addition to infrastructure. The city will simply choke.”
However, Urban Development Secretary T.C. Benjamin said redevelopment of individual buildings would not come in way of the cluster approach. “The cluster approach is aimed at a mix of buildings, not just cessed ones,” Benjamin said. “It (includes) well-planned housing complexes and will have rich dividends for the tenants, the new residents and the city.’’
There are other issues as well that will prove problematic for cluster redevelopment: getting consensus of various stakeholders and balancing their expectations, and developers shortchanging the tenants.
For tenants like Dwivedi, who stays in a sprawling flat near Oval Maidan, redevelopment would mean opting for a much smaller flat.
Dwivedi and Gadnis may belong to opposite ends of the old city spectrum, but they are both wary of the new maintenance bills that they may have to shell out after the new society gets formed. The landlords are also opposed to the cluster approach because they don’t want to lose their profit margins to private builders.
The road for any cluster redevelopment in Mumbai is a long and convoluted one.