Bhendi Bazaar: Systematic urban development is need of the hour

Mumbai's Bhendi Bazaar is being transformed via a cluster redevelopment scheme and the showcase project has the potential to become a template for urban rejuvenation across India

Bhendi Bazaar plan - SBUT

Already home to half the world’s population, cities everywhere are bursting at the seams. India is no exception; we are witnessing a large migration from rural to urban areas, necessitated by the quest for livelihood. As the economic focus shifts further from agriculture to industry, this trend will only get pronounced. As India’s cities struggle to cope, the first victim is the quality of life because the pace of urbanisation far exceeds infrastructure augmentation. In Mumbai, for instance, more than 40 percent of the population lives in slums where even basic facilities like sanitation and water supply are out of reach. Add to that traffic snarls, pollution and safety concerns, and you are compelled to question our model of urbanisation. Sustainable development is the key to most socio-economic problems. Urban areas offer scope for economies of scale, efficient delivery of services and the effective use of amenities, but the opportunity needs to be utilised. Bhendi Bazaar is a case in point. Steeped in history and culture, Bhendi Bazaar has deteriorated over the decades. Its infrastructure is almost 100 years old, unsuited to the demands of modern urban life. Several buildings are made of wood and brick, growing progressively structurally weak and dangerously close to collapse. The narrow lanes make it almost impossible for vehicular traffic to move, while the lack of footpaths is a pedestrian’s nightmare. Sanitation facilities are in a pitiable state, and inadequate fire and safety measures leave the population vulnerable to natural calamities. Bhendi Bazaar is in urgent need of a makeover, which the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust has stepped in to provide through a cluster redevelopment scheme. This is a showcase project not just for Mumbai; it has the potential to become the template for urban rejuvenation across India. Spread across 16.5 acres, the redevelopment will transform the lives of 3,200 families and upgrade 1,250 businesses. It will positively impact more than 20,000 lives. This project is, in many ways, a city within a city and incorporates the essentials of a smart urban cluster. This includes energy, water, sanitation, transport, solid waste management and connectivity. The objective is to optimise the use of resources and reduce costs even as we engage residents and businesses to make the model sustainable. Facilities will be in sync with the demands of modern living. A sewage treatment plant will recycle waste water for flushing and gardening, reducing the load on the civic sewage and water supply system. Despite an increase in population after redevelopment, the sewage treatment plant and rainwater harvesting will reduce total water consumption in the area. Technology will play a significant role with solar lights illuminatingstreets and public areas like staircases, lowering electricity consumption. Apartments will be fitted with energy-efficient lights, ensuringthe highest levels of efficiency and reducing the carbon footprint. While technology will catalyse a sea change, the need for green cover cannot be ignored. Bhendi Bazaar currently has only one tree but there will be 700 trees and shrubs after redevelopment, absorbing noise and improving the quality of air. It’s no surprise that the project has got a pre-certified ‘gold’ rating from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). For any such smart locality to succeed, we need to pay particular attention to transportation and traffic management. Surrounded by three major roads, the area is already well connected but it’s the roads within the project that will be the key to residents’ quality of life. These roads will be designed to enable smooth vehicular and pedestrian movement, providing for 4,000 parking slots. Currently, the locality can barely provide parking for 100 cars, which is leading to chaos. Lifestyles will be enhanced by huge open areas, green spaces, and play and recreational facilities. Importantly, these will be disabled- and elderly-friendly. The objective is to create equal spaces for all and provide an opportunity for everyone to evolve financially, physically and spiritually. Lastly, Bhendi Bazaar will not succeed unless its businesses thrive. A tremendous amount of thought has been put into developing measures that help them grow and succeed. These include a unique ‘High Street’ shopping area – with facilities that match the best trade environments – to attract new businesses and more customers; currently, many avoid Bhendi Bazaar because of its crumbling infrastructure. The views of various stakeholders including tenants and expert consultants were included in the design to ensure that a modern neighbourhood was created even while its unique culture and identity was preserved. This also ensures that the residential and commercial ecosystems are integrated in a manner that positively impacts the social and urban fabric of the city.