Allow us to make more money. That is Delhi Metro’s plea to Delhi Development Authority (DDA) — the sole land owning agency in the Capital.
Though metro is making operational profit at present (profit earned from its daily business operations), there is the issue of Rs 16,000 crore loan that the agency had taken from the Japanese government to complete Phase I and Phase II of the metro link. The loan amount was taken in installments since 1998.
Metro says that unless the DDA allows it to raise money by allowing commercial development along its corridors, the mass rapid transport system would become financially unviable and a burden on the government.
The issue has triggered a debate of sorts between the DDA, city planners and metro after Delhi Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna said intensive commercial development should be allowed along all future metro corridors. The LG, however, did not specify the exact quantum of commercial development to be allowed.
“He has left it to the Urban Development Ministry to take the final call,” said a Ministry official who did not wish to be quoted, as he isn’t authorised to speak to media.
In another proposal to the ministry, DMRC has asked that the Floor Area Ratio (the ratio of the total floor area of buildings on a certain location to the size of the land of that location) for commercial development along its corridor be increased from the existing 100 to 250.
“This will help us become commercially viable and repay our loans,” said Anuj Dayal, DMRC spokesperson.
Dayal said worldwide metro rails are running at huge loss except for Hong Kong where commercial development has been allowed along the metro route. In Hong Kong, 65 storey skyscrapers have come up along the route. Metro says this can be replicated here as well.
The DDA on its part has opposed the move on the ground that if this is allowed, it would lead to planning going haywire in the city.
“Planning for the whole city has to be viewed in totality. The supporting infrastructure along metro routes can’t take the load of more commercial development. This will lead to chaos. Besides, the move is set to benefit the builder lobby,” said a DDA official, who did not want to be quoted, as he isn't authorised to speak to media.
City planners, for once, are also supporting the DDA’s stand.
“Delhi’s masterplan mandates that commercial development is distributed in district centres. If they come up anywhere else without proper planning, it is bound to lead to chaos. This problem has arisen as Delhi metro is not aligned to high density land use making it unprofitable,” said noted city planner AGK Menon.