Iconic Dhobi Ghat to get a makeover soon

Mumbai : It’s time for the total makeover for the iconic Dhobi Ghat, one of the world’s biggest open air laundry sites at Mahalaxmi, is gearing up for a complete makeover in the next three years. The ubiquitous image of a washer flogging laundry on a slab and drying them on a bamboo-propped clothes line at Dhobi Ghat will soon change for the better.

The BMC is not only restoring the grade-III heritage site, but will also introduce washing machines and mechanised drying areas.

In the late 19th-century, the British built 731 washing pens and flogging stones, and allotted them to dhobis and their families to wash clothes in the open air laundry measuring 2.5 acres. Today, one lakh clothes are washed and dried daily.

The area now has hundreds of structures built illegally near the pens. According to the licence conditions, cooking in the heritage area is illegal and washing is allowed only during daytime.

Despite receiving flak from the Dhobi community, the BMC has demolished more than 150 structures so far. Many have switched to basic washing machines but not all can afford them. Dhobis said they need mechanised washing and drying facilities and proper drainage system to sustain their Rs100-crore annual business.

Meanwhile, the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) has started a redevelopment project on a 12.5-acre plot, which includes refurbishing the open laundry. The joint venture between Omkar Realtors and Piramal Realty, costing Rs4, 000 crore, will not only rehabilitate more than 2,100 dhobi and non-dhobi families, but also provide advanced indoor drying facilities by 2021.