Mumbai to clean up Dhobi Ghat, to make it tourist-friendly

The iconic Dhobi Ghat in Mahalaxmi, a popular tourist spot for foreigners visiting Mumbai, will soon don a new look. While the civic administration has begun the revamp of the century-old washing and drying area spread over a 23-acre plot to provide better facilities for the launderers, the BMC is also planning to build a viewing gallery for tourists in the second phase of restoration.

"In the first phase, roofs will be built over the sheds of the kilns," said Nutan Prakash Ghotge, municipal architect. "Most of the bhattis are in a dilapidated condition and we are putting new roofs and repairing the sheds. Earlier, the roofs were made of cement tiles and asbestos, but we will now use colourful tiles," said another official.

The BMC has, however, decided to retain the British era flooring of the Dhobi Ghat because of its historical significance. "The plan to renovate Dhobi Ghat is primarily to provide better conditions for the washermen," said BMC City Engineer D M Phase. The Rs 2.4-crore project, mooted in 2006, is expected to be completed in about two years.

"As the Dhobi Ghat is dilapidated and in a shambles, tourists prefer to view the place from a distance. The viewing gallery will help them get a better look," said an official involved with its restoration. The viewing gallery is proposed to be constructed alongside the footpath near the Mahalaxmi Bridge, built in a way that vehicular traffic is not obstructed. There are also plans for a parking space nearby. "But the plans for the car park and the viewing gallery will only be implemented if the railways, bridges department and other authorities give us an NOC," said Ghotge.

Under the new plan, the washermen will also be provided with gas connections for use in the kilns to discourage use of firewood. "Typically, Dhobi Ghat uses about 8,875 kg of wood per day and if we calculate the amount they have to spend on wood for firing the bhattis, it is about Rs 27,000 a day," said an official. "Pipelines from Mahanagar Gas will be laid in the Dhobi Ghat for the bhattis. We are studying whether we should provide individual or group connections," said Ghotge.

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