The Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) – an organisation of the Bohra community – is currently implementing one of the biggest cluster development projects in Mumbai. Hundreds of dilapidated buildings on either side of the congested lanes of Bhendi Bazar, spread over an area of 16.5 acres, will be razed and new towers would be built to accommodate existing tenants as well as newcomers. Simultaneously, several civic amenities like parks, which are non-existent at present, would be part of this ambitious project. The success of the cluster development concept depends largely on the expeditious implementation of this mega project worth Rs3,000 crore.
Sudhir Suryawanshi speaks to Abbas Master, CEO of SBUT. Excerpts:
What motivated you to undertake the Bhendi Bazar cluster development project?
This project reflects the vision of our spiritual head, His Holiness Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, to uplift the lives of people living in the area regardless of which community, sect or religion they belong to. The SBUT has taken up this project on a not-for-profit basis. His Holiness was concerned about the safety and quality of life of people living in the area. Our project in an area of 16.5 acres has approximately 250 buildings that will house 3,200 families. The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) has classified almost 80% of these buildings as dilapidated and dangerous to live in. When the Maharashtra government announced the cluster development scheme in 2009, we were one of the early birds to take up this initiative.
What is the importance of cluster development?
The cluster development scheme is unique and innovative, meant to redevelop the inner cities of Mumbai in a holistic manner. It ensures that not only the housing stock goes up but also that there is planned development of infrastructure in terms of roads with footpaths, well-planned sewerage systems, recreation areas, and adequate parking.
What is unique about the project?
The uniqueness of our project lies in the fact that it aims at the physical, spiritual, cultural and commercial uplift of the people concerned. It is not a mere redevelopment project. Every aspect is being covered. We have created one of the finest transit homes for residents to move in while their new homes are being built. We have already moved over 1,200 residents to these transit homes. In addition, we have just completed a transit area for our commercial tenants within less than a kilometre from the project site. It is the first transit area developed for commercial establishments anywhere in the country. We are planning one of the finest high-street shopping facilities in the city with adequate parking space.
Are you facing any problem?
Since the concept of cluster development is new and ours is a huge project, the process of approval is taking a long time. But then, all of us are learning from this experiment.
What is your expectation from the state government?
The government needs to give a unique status to cluster development projects and introduce the single-window concept to speed-up approvals. The most critical aspect of cluster development is that the government must classify these projects as being for “public good” when 70% of the tenants of old buildings give their consent to them. This would allow the government to acquire the buildings of non-consenting owners by giving them fair market value. The lives of thousands of people living in dilapidated buildings are at stake. The projects should be fast-tracked.