Adani Industries

Transforming Mumbai’s landscape on the lines of Singapore

The opening credits of the Danny Boyle movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ feature a line – “IT IS WRITTEN”; this sums up the message the film intends to convey. Protagonist Jamal, a youth from the Dharavi slum, is one question away from winning Rs. 20 million on a TV quiz. When asked the final question, he answers “It’s written” because he thinks it might be his destiny to win the game. The film went on to become a huge success, winning eight Academy awards.

Though the movie brought Dharavi into focus, sadly it couldn’t do much to change the destiny of the slum, considered one of the largest in Asia. Uncontrolled urbanization and unchecked migration are some factors that lead to the formation of slums. These are the pockets where human development is low and basic amenities are almost absent. To resolve the age-old inequity, focus needs to be on community wealth-building rather than on community development, say experts. 

Dharavi, spread over an area of 2.8 sq km, is home to several enterprises that employ over one lakh people. Need for urban development and improved housing options for residents was felt even in the 1980s. But talks about redevelopment began only in 2004 when the Maharashtra government came up with an action plan. The government cancelled all tenders in 2011 and developed a masterplan. In 2018, a new model for slum redevelopment was approved by the Fadnavis government. However, the Uddhav Thackeray government cancelled the tender in 2020. Bids for redevelopment were opened again in 2022, and the Adani Group won the bid.    

Dharavi Redevelopment Project Pvt Ltd (DRPPL), a joint venture between the Adani Group and the Maharashtra government, is now steering the redevelopment project. DRPPL has tied up with urban planning and infrastructure engineering entities Sasaki, from the U.S., and Buro Happold, from the U.K., and onboarded architect Hafeez Contractor.

Experts from Singapore have also joined the team. The Dharavi project could take a leaf or two out of Singapore’s success story and incorporate the learnings into its transformational journey. According to a report, Singapore was dotted with shanties, slums and ghettos, similar to Dharavi, in the 1960s. The Singapore housing board developed over a million homes, completely revamping the city’s skyline. Adani’s venture, too, aims to transform Mumbai’s landscape and improve the quality of life for its people.

In an open letter, Adani Group Chairman Mr. Gautam Adani had said, “The Group promises that it will not only provide better living space to the people settling here but will also work to protect and promote small and micro units here. Adani Group intends to turn Mumbai’s Dharavi into a ‘modern city center’. Rehabilitation of the people can include many things, such as training centres for upskilling, product and service-based common facility centres, research centres, data centres, and MSME help desks.”

“Along with gas, water, electricity, sanitation, drainage, health, entertainment facilities, open area for living and a world-class school and hospital can also be developed in this area. This may seem impossible to you because this work has to be done for about 7 lakh people, but Adani Group has expertise in handling big projects. They have also proved this on many occasions,” he said.

There’s an interesting story about Mr. Adani’s visit to Kandla Port as a kid. Standing on the coast of the Gulf of Kutch and marvelling at the infrastructure of the port, he wished to build such a facility. He fulfilled his childhood dream by building the state-of-the art Mundra Port, the largest commercial port in India. It was destiny. It was written. It was meant to be.

It was destiny when he dropped out of school in Class 10 and left for the City of Dreams in the late 1970s to “do something big in the diamond business”. He said he has “closely seen the life and struggles of the people in Dharavi”. Referencing Danny Boyle’s movie, Mr. Adani expressed optimism about the future of “the new Dharavi that is going to produce millionaires without the slumdog prefix”.