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History of Growth of Slum in Dharavi

       Dharavi, located on the northernmost tip of Mumbai island City, was the home of the Koli fishing community and the Mahim Creek was their source of fish and livelihood for centuries. Indeed, one of the Bombay Gazetteers mentions Dharavi as one of the ‘six great Koliwadas of Bombay’.
        The Portuguese were the first colonists to stake their claim to the seven islands of Bombay in the 16th century: they built a small fort and church at Bandra, on the opposite shore from Dharavi. The years passed, the Koli fishermen continued to fish in the Creek. The Riwa (Rehwa) Fort at Dharavi, locally known as ‘Kala Qilla’, was built in 1737 by the second British governor of Bombay, Gerald Aungier, on the banks of the Mithi River. It was part of the larger British-built Bombay Castle.

         The growth of Dharavi is closely interwoven with the pattern of migration into Bombay. The first people to settle there did so because the land, mainly used as an informal rubbish dump, was free and unregulated. The marshy land slowly grew more solid but even till the mid-1900s, parts were so wet, people had to build foot-bridges to cross over.


         By end-1800s, the potters from Saurashtra were relocated here and set up their colony (Kumbharwada), as also the Muslim leather tanners from Tamilnadu (because of the proximity of the abattoir in Bandra). Artisans and embroidery workers from Uttar Pradesh started the ready-made garments trade, and Tamilians set up a flourishing business, making savories and sweets. This way, Mumbai being the commercial capital of the country with unlimited opportunity for employment attracted people from all parts of the country, irrespective of region, caste, religion. Most of the land in Dharavi is owned by government and government agencies and so was the most suitable for the migrants to encroach and setup informal settlement. Dharavi thus became an amazing mosaic of villages and townships from all over India belonging to different religions, languages, and entrepreneurs, all surviving shoulder to shoulder.


          As long as Dharavi was on the edge of the city, the main city was not affected much by the squatters and their activities. But as Mumbai expanded northwards and its population grew with new industries, the pressure on land increased, and Dharavi was drawn into the heart of the city. Once Dharavi was a swamp, fishing village. Today it is a slum or rather collection of slums.

         Majority of land ownership was with Govt. and Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM). Slum dwellers squatted on these lands and built hutments in haphazard manner. An Act called the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971 was passed. Improvement works were defined therein. A census of hutments was  carried out in 1976 and photo-passes were issued to slum families. Its people were provided with taps, toilets and electrical connections as part of slum improvement measures. The Sion-Mahim Link road, the 60 feet and 90 feet roads, were all built around this time; sewer and water lines were laid down. Transit Camps were built to relocate people whose homes came in the way of new roads and other infrastructural projects.

                                        Past programs of Government to develop Dharavi

         In early part of 1985, the then Prime Minister Late Shri  Rajiv Gandhi earmarked / sanctioned Rs.100 crores for the improvement of infrastructure and housing for the whole Island city of Bombay, and a third of that sum was reserved for Dharavi. The Prime Minister’s Grant Project (PMGP) was initiated in 1987 and Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) was declared as Special Planning Authority (SPA) for Dharavi. Under the project about 27 buildings with number of houses were built thereby giving shelter to good number of families.

         Later on, after the year 1995, under the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRA) 86 Schemes were approved in Dharavi in the period upto 2004. Majority of the Schemes were based on TDR (Transferred Development Rights) and the TDR generated from these projects were sold for use outside Dharavi. Most of the schemes under SRA were along the major developed roads of Dharavi. No major S.R Schemes were proposed in the interior part of Dharavi due to inadequate access and also due to the presence of larger number of commercial / industrial units. These schemes were scattered in whole of Dharavi and buildings were coming up in sporadic manner along the existing roads. The SRA schemes lacked the much needed emphasis on holistically planned urban development including development of new roads, water and sewerage and other amenities. Major part of Dharavi remained in undeveloped and unhygienic condition.

                                  Renewed Initiative of Government to develop Dharavi 

         Government of Maharashtra in the year 2003-04 decided to redevelop Dharavi as an integrated planned township and an action plan for implementation of Dharavi Redevelopment was approved by its G.R. dtd. 04.02.2004. It was decided to develop it by using land as resource to cross-subsidize the cost of development through sale component on the basis Slum Rehabilitation Scheme by dividing it into sectors and by appointing developers for the same. Government also decided to notify the whole of Dharavi as undeveloped area and to appoint a Special Planning Authority for planning and development. 
        Government in Urban Development Department (UDD) accordingly notified the lands  admeasuring about 178.30 Ha bounded as: on or towards North by Sant Rohidas Marg (Sion-Bandra Link Road), on or towards North-West by Mithi River (Creek)/Mahim Creek, on or towards North-East by Junction of Sant Rohidas Marg and L.B.S. Marg, on or towards East by Central Railway Tracks, on or towards South-East, West and South-West by Western Railway Harbor Tracks as the Dharavi Notified Area (DNA) under its notification no. TPB 4034/322/CR-56/04/UD-11, dtd. 09.03.2005 and appointed Slum Rehabilitation Authority an authority constituted under Section 3A of Maharashtra Slum Areas (I. C. & R.) Act, 1971 as Special Planning Authority (SPA) for that area under sub Section 1(b) of Section 40 of M.R. & T.P. Act, 1966.  
        Similarly, Government in U.D.D. notified the lands admeasuring about 62.05 Ha bounded as: on or towards North and North East by the Boundary of 'H' Block of Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), on or towards East by Refuse Transfer Station outside 'H' Block area as per planning proposal of BKC sanctioned under notification No.BKR-1177/262/UD-5 dated 9th April 1979, on or towards South-East by L.B.S. Marg, on towards South by Southern boundary of Sant Rohidas Marg, on or towards South-West and West by Western boundary of C.S. no. 665 (Piwala Bunglow) and boundary of 'H' Block of BKC by including existing Rajeev Nagar  as Dharavi Notified Area under its Notification no. TPB 4308/3499/CR-83/09/UD-11, dtd. 25.06.2009 and appointed SRA as the Special Planning Authority for the same under sub Section 1 (b) of section of 40 of the M.R. & T.P. Act, 1966.

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