The government's notifications to counter the court-ordered sealing and demolition drive have come in for severe criticism from architects and townplanners. They say that a mere change in land use will not solve the city’s deepening problems.
Well-known architect and planner Professor AGK Menon says, “what we see today is action and reaction. But the need of the day is concerted thinking and planning for the city by professionals who are equipped to do it.” Solving such an urban crisis will be a long drawn-out and complicated process and involve a lot of hard work. “I have been consistently talking of the need for an urban renewal for Delhi. Planners in the government are able to do only broad conceptual planning for the city; what is required is a detailed plan for each area that factors in the needs and requirements of the people through a consultative process,” Menon says.
He says the immediate requirement is status quo. Then, with the help of professional planners and architects, the government should proceed area-wise and prepare plans for each locality. Wholesale solutions like notifying 2,183 roads as commercial or mixed land use stretches will make the city unlivable. On the other hand, clinging to norms laid down in the 1962 master plan that do not meet the needs of the constantly evolving city, will lead to tragic conflicts, says Menon.
Senior architect and planner Kuldip Singh echoes the sentiments. Demolitions and notifications to counter them do not meet the current and future requirements of the city but end up harming citizens, Singh says. “For instance, by declaring 2,183 roads as commercial and mixed land use area, the Delhi Government has overnight created 16,000 to 20,000 acres of commercial land. The road I am staying in has some commercial activities, but the large number of people who live in the area are now at a disadvantage. There is no justification for making this lane commercial overnight. There has to be a proper impact and need assessment and studies before such a street can be declared commercial,” Singh says.
He says the government ought to seek time from the courts and ask for help from professional planners and designers to draw up area-wise plans and come up with a rational solution for each area.
Urban designer and Dean of School of Planning and Architecture K T Ravindran believes that it is very important to protect the character and quality of residential colonies. This, he says, cannot be achieved through mere land use planning. Urban designers need to be involved in this. “If residential streets have to be kept free for children and the elderly, a three-dimensional urban design is needed. A building has to be so designed that access and entrance to the commercial and residential parts face away from each other and are completely segregated. Even in a building housing commercial establishments on the ground floor and homes on higher floors, the entrance to the commercial parts has to be segregated from the entrance to the staircase to the homes above.”