The ABCD of Koliwada

The ABCD of Koliwada

We have spent the last fifteen years in the neighbourhood of Dharavi, actively participating in the user-driven evolution of its material and social life. This has given us the confidence to conceptualise and embark on a project called “The ABCD of Dharavi Koliwada”. This article outlines the vision for the project. 

It was back in 2008 that we organised our first massive participatory workshop in Dharavi Koliwada, Dharavi, Mumbai. We started to call these workshops Urban Typhoons because of the intense concentration of energy that results. We had about 150 participants including residents of Koliwada, architects, planners, urban theorists, and students from Mumbai and beyond coming together to discuss the future of Koliwada, an urban fishing village. It was then that we discovered the willingness amongst the Koli community to explore all types of alternative ideas for redevelopment which is important to probe the question of form, typology, and diversity of habitats. We were inspired to embed ourselves in Dharavi, Mumbai, and set up an office soon after. 

It is now 2024, and we have spent the last fifteen years in the neighbourhood actively participating in the user-driven evolution of its material and social life. This has given us the confidence to conceptualise and embark on a project called “The ABCD of Dharavi Koliwada” where ABCD stands for Action-Based Comprehensive Development Plan for Koliwada in Dharavi, which will be produced with the active participation of the residents. Through a series of urban in situ interventions, we aim at engaging the community of Koliwada in the production of a comprehensive plan for the environmental, economic and spatial improvement of Koliwada. 

The action of the Comprehensive Plan includes people’s participation, which is key to the project. To ensure this, we will conduct a series of discussions, workshops, and public exhibitions with the Koli community including the Koli Jamat, Fisherfolk, Women, Youth and Non-Kolis. It is through this process that we hope to distil out need-based interventions which can trigger the incremental redevelopment of the neighbourhood. Apart from the stakeholders, we will work closely with the local builders who have immense experience in construction within the neighbourhood. 

We have been speaking with the stakeholders to get an idea of their needs. So far, we have managed to pick up important clues from our conversations about what the interventions could be. They will ultimately be determined by the community but could include the following interventions: 

Improvement of the fish market facilities - Dharavi Koliwada’s fish market is hidden within the settlement known only to the Kolis and other residents. One can see lines of women selling fish which they get from city markets and fish ponds. The market needs upgrading and maintenance. We would like to produce and implement a design together with the women and create new roofing and flooring, new stalls and storage.

A celebration garden along the Mithi River - Along the Mithi River, there is a small parcel of land owned by the Dharavi Koli Jamat. The community uses this land for cultural activities. However, it is currently used as a dump yard and parking lot. The community wants to develop this land into a space equipped to host local festivities such as Narlipurnima (coconut festival), and Ganesh Chaturthi. The land would also be equipped with a small dock for fishing boats. 

Water supply and Sanitation project - The Dharavi Koli Jamat has asked urbz to plan a water supply and sanitation system for the community. At the moment residents get their drinking water through a maze of pipes with sewage frequently contaminating the water supply lines and putting the residents at risk of water-borne diseases. Providing a new water infrastructure requires talking to each household, understanding the existing network, mapping the narrow lanes of the neighbourhood, and planning a gradual phasing plan that residents will trust.

Coworking space for young adults - This project caters to young adults in Dharavi who are looking for collaborative office spaces. While Dharavi is an extremely entrepreneurial neighbourhood, most local businesses were set up by a previous generation which worked with their hands. Families have invested to send their children to college and university. Such a space could draw from the entrepreneurial spirit of Dharavi while addressing the aspirations of a generation that is more comfortable working from a smartphone or a 3D printer. 

As we continue our conversations with community members, new needs and interventions emerge that will ultimately feed into the comprehensive plan. We will keep you updated with regular posts on our progress. Stay tuned!