Tuesday, 13 July 2010 00:00
In a bid to make the capital city a global metropolis, the state government has proposed a master plan which promises to transform Delhi into a world-class city by 2021. Satyavir Singh comes back fascinated.
Delhi is undergoing a major facelift as the most awaited Commonwealth Games 2010 is drawing close. The entire city is bracing for one of the biggest sporting events of the year. The administration is not leaving any stones unturned to bolster the infrastructure of the city. Roads are getting revamped, metro network is expanding and security is stepped up from enter to exit points of the capital.
But bracing for the games is a short-term goal which cannot empower the vision of transforming Delhi into a mega-city. If the capital really wants to rub shoulders with metropolises like New York and dazzling Dubai, it should have a concrete plan to materialize the dream.
And, indeed, the government has drawn a road map for this endeavour. In February 2007, the Congress government unveiled the Master Plan for Delhi 2021, aims to provide a better quality of life to Delhiites by strengthening infrastructure and exploring new means of resources to suffice the need of t h e c i t y ' s bu r g e o n i n g population, while creating a conducive atmosphere for investments and growth. Earlier, the government proposed a similar mega plan (with deadline of 2001); but it went on the back burner due to wrong estimation of the city's population and the need of infrastructure and resources. This time, however, planning and execution seems to be well-orchestrated and the administration is looking more pro-active to accomplish the vision.
But, there are various challenges that the government needs to address: massive immigration into NCR region, security, environmental issues, rehabilitation of slum areas, provision of adequate resources, protection of Delhi's monuments and heritage, up-gradation of dilapidated areas and many more. The central government has asserted that the plan is very well drafted and has covered all the major issues. During the announcement of Master Plan for Delhi 2021(MPD), Union Minister of State for Urban Development Ajay Maken stated that the new Master plan was a comprehensive document that aimed at addressing a range of issues such as housing, transport, and environment and so on and so forth." Poring over the draft, one would realize that they tried to touch upon some major concerns, if not all. Let's look at some of the salient features of this ambitious project which promises an unprecedented transformation in the fabric of the city
Barring few upscale areas, most parts of Delhi is carved out without planning unlike the cities like Chandigarh, Pune and Bengaluru. There are areas in the outskirts of the city which are completely dilapidated and each area has their own peculiar issues. Therefore, in order to give attention to each area, experts have divided The National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi into 15 zones; where each zone is enumerated from A to H and zone J to P. Eight of these zones are in urban area, one in riverbed and the rest six will constitute rural part of the city. Each zone will be developed according to the categories of land use. Stress is given on public-private partnership (PPP). Priorities have been given for developing district centres, community centres and local shopping centres. It takes into account the mixed land use where commercial activities are allowed in residential areas. In addition, Nursing Homes, Dispensaries, Clinics, Banks, Nursery Schools, Guest Houses, etc. have been permitted in residential plots subject to criteria of plot-size and Right of Way (ROW) of the road. In another unique effort to maintain sanitation of international standard, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) plans to build air-conditioned luxury toilets across the capital. The civic agency plans to build 218 such toilets, which would have coffee shops on the first floor and a flower shop adjacent to it before the Commonwealth.
Traffic and connectivity
Traffic congestion has been a grave issue in Delhi. Although transportation issue is always given a priority, traffic trouble continues to irk commuters every day. Initiatives like building flyovers and restructuring of roads have not been able to curb congestion. Therefore this time DDA has conceived innovative steps to overcome the traffic pandemonium in the city. It suggests the construction of tubes, underground roads and the creation of alternative links close to a dozen congested routes. MPD also proposes the construction of more bridges over Yamuna River near Geeta Colony and Mayur Vihar areas in East Delhi. It considers platoon bridges as a design model. An elevated road corridor has also been planned between Connaught Place and Bundh Road in East Delhi.
According to the Master Plan, Delhi's population will stagger up to the figure of 2.3 crore. Needless to say, it will be a gargantuan task for the administration to deal with rising demands for housing. Therefore, unlike erstwhile projects, MPD is in sync with demographic estimations made by experts. Housing is to be developed through a mix of redevelopment and creation of new housing in urban extension. While the city is going to witness a surge in rural immigration, emphasis is laid on housing for urban poor. At least 50 per cent of total number of dwelling units will be accounted for poor. The planning will be shifted from plotted housing to group housing (about 90%). The planners have also proposed to the government for enhancing the ground coverage, relaxation in Floor Area Ratio (FAR) and height for all categories of residential plots to increase available space. The plan also suggests ending DDA's monopoly on land acquisition and development of housing stock.
To spur commercial activities in the capital, a slew of measures are proposed in the mega project. The plan recommends construction of mini-golf courses, galleries, open-air theatres, amusement parks, food plazas in the Metropolitan City Centre, which constitutes Connaught Place and its extensions. In addition, the planners are also advocating vertical rise of buildings due to scarcity of land. The government is also musing to extend business hours to make the city lanes livelier and happening. IT industry is to be included as a permissible industry in existing industrial area and new industrial areas are also suggested for hi-tech industries. The authorities also planned to organize traditional craft bazaars, heritage walks, kite festivals, fairs and special rides for tourists in the targeted areas. "FAR in Delhi is already notified at 200. Besides, zone N is being classified as the high rise zone, since it is far away from the air funnel. This zone would allow "super tall structures" with helipad facilities to encourage modern developments from Global investors& developers," says Menon.
Amidst all the talks about infrastructural development and housing, the Master Plan is not missing out at environmental issues. Conservation of ridge, rejuvenation of river Yamuna, refurbishment of trunk sewers, treatment of drains and industrial affluent, recycling of treated effluent are few steps to be taken to curb pollution in the city. At least 15-20 per cent of land will be given to green belt area.
Being a historical city, Delhi's heritage is instrumental to its identity as well as to its tourism sectors too. Monuments and statues still resonate with the unprecedented events that city had witnessed from centuries. Therefore, the administration has decided to identify heritage zones and archaeological parks under the Master Plan. Special conservation plans for listed building and precincts will be revamped.
To meet the requirement of water, sewerage system and power supply, the planning committee has tabled a proposal for an area of about 10,000 hectares has for accommodating sanitary landfills, power generation and transmission facilities. Govt. of NCT of Delhi has made a request to Ministry of Water Resources for additional allocation for surplus Ravi-Vyas water. Three new dams are to be constructed two on river Yamuna and one on river Tons to satiate the needs like irrigation, drinking water and power generation.
The Master plan has undoubtedly bigger than any previous master plans. The most important point is that quality of life and space to every city dweller is taken into consideration, while proposing any measure. But, as Shakespeare has quoted, "What is city, but the people", public needs to be more responsible as how and where resources are utilized.