Ranjit Sabikhi

Principal Partner, Ranjit Sabikhi Architects

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Warped Priorities Dictate Future Development In Delhi

The various plans prepared by the Delhi Development Authority do not properly recognise or provide for the needs of a large section of society

Warped Priorities Dictate Future Development In Delhi
Warped Priorities Dictate Future Development In Delhi
Warped Priorities Dictate Future Development In Delhi
Warped Priorities Dictate Future Development In Delhi

Over a span of 60 years from when the First Master Plan for Delhi was conceived the population of the Delhi Urban Area has increased from 50 lakhs to over 210 lakhs today. Although the urbanized area has been extended somewhat, the bulk of the population increase has been accommodated within the boundaries of existing development. It is an accepted fact that over 60% of the population consists of the economically weaker sections, who occupy less than 20% of the available urban space.

The various Master Plans prepared over the years by the Delhi Development Authority do not properly recognize, or provide for the comprehensive needs of this section of society. Let us take a close look at how this matter has been dealt with.

The 1961 Delhi Master Plan recognized the existence of a number of villages within the designated urban area and also recommended the need for their effective integration with the surrounding neighborhood, but no positive action was taken to implement this.

In fact, arbitrary development within the Lal Dora area of villages continued unchecked. The Master Plan for Delhi Perspective Plan 2001, recognised the increased concentration of low income groups within the 106 existing urban villages, and also in the more than 600 unauthorized colonies and squatter settlements, which it was suggested, required regular and systematic monitoring. Other than regularization of a number of these unauthorized colonies, very little was done to properly plan the required services network, and supporting communal facilities in these areas.

The Master Plan for Delhi 2021 notified in February 2007, for the first time recognized the phenomena of unauthorized colonies and squatter/ jhuggi jhompri settlements (slums), that were to be dealt with in terms of future growth and proliferation. It also mentioned the need for redevelopment and densification of the existing urban areas and city improvement. The plan called for a comprehensive redevelopment strategy for accommodating a larger population, and strengthening of infrastructure facilities accompanied by creation of more open spaces at the local level, by undertaking measures for redevelopment of congested areas. All of this was well intended, but let us review what has actually happened almost ten years later.

The basic framework and layout of the original Master Plan with its system of dispersed District Centes, Community Centres and allocation of space for different uses has not changed. However the basic form of the city has been completely altered by the imposition of a Metro-Rail system and many new roads, over bridges and underpasses. All of this has been done with the intention of providing better connectivity and easier movement for the common man. The fact however is that the metro rail system and its stations have been simply superimposed on existing development, without attempt at effective integration with the surrounding areas. The roads have been taken over by an increasing number of private cars, creating general conditions of chaos. To deal with this, more and more flyovers, have been approved at colossal cost to the city.

Mass Rapid Transit System
The importance of mass transportation has only now been recognized, and in the TOD (Transit Oriented Development) notification dated 26th November 2014 a new Master Plan concept was put across as quoted below: "The concept of the Master Plan for Delhi 1962 was based on a poly-nodal, polycentric distribution of work centres, largely based on road transport nodes. A major fall-out of this has been distortion between infrastructure, transport and land use. To achieve spatial balance, development should take place according to new corridors of mass transport movement. This has implications in terms of land use planning along the Mass Rapid Transport / Transit system. This would not only help to solve, to some extent, the enormous problems of mass transportation, but would generate a dynamic potential for growth and employment.

This is particularly true for the Metro Rail System. In this context the MRTS corridors up to 500m depth on either side from the centerline of MRTS would require selective redevelopment and re-densification / intensification of existing land uses
based on site conditions. The concept of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) needs to be adopted such that maximum number of people can live, work or find means of recreation within walking / cycling distance of the MRTS corridors / stations.’

The primary goals of TOD are to:

1. Reduce / discourage private vehicle dependency and induce public transport use – through policy measures, design interventions and enforcement.

2. Provide public transport access to the maximum number of people through densification and enhanced connectivity.

A dynamic city–level integrated transport land use model for Delhi needs to be prepared to assess transportation and landuse planning needs of the city. It is proposed that integrated redevelopment schemes of the influence area of MRTS stations be prepared based on TOD principles.’

On studying the TOD notification in detail and relating it to the current development situation on the ground it is realized that this calls for a complete change in the framework of future development across the city.

Basic road systems along with services networks will have to be altered, and a framework developed to put together parcels of minimum 1 hectare (2.47 acres) area that lie within the MRTS corridor to enable comprehensive redevelopment with increased builtup area, and suggested mixture of uses. This is impossible to implement in some areas like Laksmi Nagar and Shakarpur along Vikas Marg in East Delhi, which are areas where large numbers of low income people are already concentrated, and five to six storey high walkup structures have been built with the total FAR going above 400. A study of the urban design proposals prepared in 2010 by UTTIPEC (a traffic and transportation planning unit of DDA) for the Karkardooma site prior to the issue of the TOD notification in November 2014, shows a well thought out system to change the current approach to development. However the Ministry of Urban Development as well as the DDA completely sidelined these proposals and handed over the responsibility for design and development to NBCC – which is basically a government construction agency, without the design expertise required to implement large scale planning and urban design projects. The so called East Delhi Hub proposed by DDA and designed by NBCC, along with a proposed 100 storey signature tower, completely ignores the detailed UTTIPEC recommendations based on the guidelines contained in the TOD notifications.

It is important to understand the wider implications of this issue. The UTTIPEC proposal for the 75 acre vacant site at Karkardooma, near Anand Vihar railway station, was conceived as a concentrated mixed use complex centred on the Udyog Vihar metro line. It was a modification of DDA’s proposed scheme for the site which was a preliminary concept with a series of identical multistory blocks set in space, along with areas earmarked for group housing and commercial use. UTTIPEC’s alternate space allocation with the same development program was a more carefully worked out urban design study. Defined around a system of green spaces the site was broken up into a system of blocks with greater pedestrian connectivity both within the blocks and linking the central green spaces. Parking space was organized at the center in each block, with the outer edges having wide uninterrupted pedestrian walks. All residential blocks were planned to directly abut on to the street with no setbacks, providing visual connection and a greater sense of security.

A combination of highrise and walkup apartments, helped create variety and a sense of scale. The program called for a mixture of uses, combining residential, commercial and civic use. The emphasis was on mixed land use to generate high public transport usage, and to promote walkability. The housing component was to have a mixture of low and middle income housing. The TOD notification of 14th July 2015 has made it mandatory that 50% of the residences be of a size between 32 to 40 sqm area. The UTTIPEC proposal although comprehensive, was not worked out in detail, and has now been subjected to a totally different interpretation by the DDA and NBCC. If the development were implemented in accordance with the UTTIPEC proposal, it would help define a fresh new approach to development along the many different TOD corridors across the city.

Arbitrary Proposal
DDA is now trying to boost the importance of its arbitrary proposal for multistory towers on this remote site, by renaming it as the Karkardooma Smart City project. Instead of focusing on the need for an integrated mixed use development that would bring about a change in the current gated enclaves serving select groups that are being built across the city, the DDA just like any other private developer has committed itself to generate maximum profit from this pocket of open land. It has failed to fulfill its responsibility to implement the Delhi Master Plan in a far and equitable manner, with the larger interest of the city population in mind.

The real problem however, is that the different government agencies that control development within the national capital region all tend to work at cross purposes, each protecting their own area of interest. There is no real attempt to understand the importance of co-ordinated comprehensive development, and as such no detailed integrated development plans are prepared for specific areas across the city. The Zonal Plans prepared by the DDA are a disaster, and it is something not worth commenting upon.

Unless the central government takes it upon itself to bring about a fundamental change in the approach to future urban development within the capital conditions are only going to deteriorate further.


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