In a severely land-constrained city like Mumbai, every available piece of land obviously has inherent value that developers will want to capitalize on. In such a scenario, little is really sacrosanct and exempt from future exploitation. Fortunately, there are areas in Mumbai that – despite the tempting land availability there – will continue to resist the vagaries of ‘progress’. One of these is the Worli Koliwada area.
Worli Koliwada covers approximately 125 acres of land, with the core Koliwada area, Worli Fort and other surrounding unorganized developments accounting for 68 acres and the Coast Guard premises and Adarsh Nagar accounting for the rest. This area is in the very heart of one of Mumbai’s most lucrative commercial and residential property zones. Its potential for real estate development seems obvious, but certain immutable market realities have so far saved it from such fate.
To begin with, Worli Fort is a heritage monument. Secondly, the Worli Koliwada area itself falls in a Coastal Regulation Zone, as it is bound by sea from three sides. Thirdly, it is also sensitive from a Defence perspective, given that the Indian Coast Guard has active operations abutting it. An additional factor that makes Worli Koliwada sensitive from a security viewpoint is its proximity to the Bandra-Worli Sealink.
Fourthly, this area also has fishing-related activities and is densely populated by Mumbai’s traditional fishermen families. The unique Koli (fishermen community) ethos that thrives in Worli Koliwada is, in fact, Mumbai’s original culture – one which is fast evaporating. The only other comparable area in the financial capital is Versova Koliwada. Most of such areas have been decimated by the hammer of commercialized development over the last few decades.
This is unfortunate. Redevelopment in Mumbai should happen to ensure the betterment of living standards, and to lay newer infrastructure – but not at cost of the city’s heritage, ecology and security. Laying Worli Koliwada open for mercenary development would wipe out one the few remaining bastions of Mumbai’s erstwhile cultural heritage, and would deservedly cause considerable public outcry.
Even if all restrictions and challenges were somehow overcome by political manipulation, real estate development in this area would not be an easy task. In the first place, the area comprises primarily of a rocky surface that does not lend itself well to the laying of deep foundations. Secondly, this is essentially a narrow strip of land leading into the sea, so the creation of roads and other supportive infrastructure would be a logistical nightmare.
In fact, for all these reasons, using any of the existing standards of attributing a market value to the Worli Koliwada area would be far from easy. That said – with residential property rates in Worli currently ranging from Rs. 30,000-60,000/sq.ft. and commercial property rates from Rs. 18,000-40,000/sq.ft., Worli Koliwada will obviously continue to rank high on every developers’ wish list despite all the challenges it presents them with.