Efforts by the government to ease congestion on a road stretch in Vasant Kunj has left residents of the area fuming. In an interview to HT, PK Sarkar of the School of Planning and Architecture points out where the problem lies and how the project can be executed in a people-friendly way. Excerpts:
Q: Is there a problem with the way this project is being executed?
If trees have been felled without the forest department’s permission and people are protesting because boundary walls of colonies have been demolished, as is being reported, this is a case of violation of ethics and guidelines. This shows that either impact assessment studies were not done or done but not in the right earnest.
Q: Is an eight-lane, 75-metre-wide stretch cutting through a densly-populated neighbourhood such as Vasant Kunj needed?
The project doesn’t seem justified. The width of highways in India is mostly between 45 and 60 metres. The width of expressways can go up to 90 metres. In case of a new township such as Greater Noida, the right of way can be even wider because planners leave room for facilities such as a rapid transit system. But they don’t run through the colonies.
Q: But the government says this road was planned to be 75m-wide in Delhi’s master plan.
But it was never widened according to the plan you are referring to years after Vasant Kunj came up. And I have never seen such a wide road anywhere. The width should definitely be less than 75 metres. We go by the Indian Road Congress norms. Such a massive widening is not warranted at this stage.
Q: If this project is to be executed in its current form, what should the government do to make it people-friendly?
You need to do safety audit during planning and design, feasibility studies for construction and traffic forecasting for the coming years to ensure a lot of things, including safe pedestrian mobility. This is why you prepare a detailed project report. If you don’t do all this, any new stretch will go the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway way where accidents are quite frequent. I have doubts if the design in this project has been audited.
Q: Government says because of road- widening, there would be lesser pollution because of better flow of traffic.
See, any widening reduces congestion. It’s not a rocket science. But after some time this road will also attract additional traffic. We will have diverted and induced flow of vehicles. This will ultimately lead to more air and noise pollution.