Politicians, traders and experts might blame Delhi’s civic nightmare on the Delhi Development Authority (DDA)’s failure to provide adequate commercial spaces but the agency disagrees.
The DDA claims it has been able to meet 58 per cent of the target for commercial space set by the Master Plan, 1962. In a presentation made to the Union urban development ministry two months ago, Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) had faulted the DDA for meeting only 16 per cent of the target.
In its report, the DDA says it has built nine of the 21 district centres proposed in the Master Plan; 48 of the 102 proposed community centres and 160 of the 229 proposed local shopping centres. Of the 531 convenient shopping centres that the agency had proposed in the Master Plan, 390 have been developed. The rest are being built or have been encroached upon.
The agency says HUDCO arrived at the low figure because it took only the district centers into account. If all the commercial spaces developed by DDA, including convenient shopping centres, local shopping centres, community centres, district centres and non hierarchical commercial complexes, were taken into account, the percentage would have worked out to 58 per cent.
This number game, however, has not impressed urban planners. For one, meeting 58 per cent of the target is not a feat to crow about, they say.
“Even 58 per cent is half the requirement. The main reason for proliferation of commercial activity in residential areas is because the DDA provided commercial spaces in areas inaccessible to people,” said K.T. Ravindran, urban designer and dean, School of Planning and Architecture.
Another reason for the rampant unauthorized commercial activity in the capital, say experts, is the DDA’s inability to provide commercial spaces on time.
“Most of the local shopping centres and convenient stores came up much after DDA built the residential colonies. When you have a residential colony, you also need convenient shopping stores nearby. No wonder unauthorized shops cropped up in residential areas,” said noted urban planner, AGK Menon.
The exorbitant cost of the market spaces compounded the problem. “The need of the hour is to have cheaper options like informal shopping centres,” said Menon.
Ravindran also blamed the prohibitive cost of shops auctioned by DDA for keeping away small-time shopkeepers from authorized commercial centres. “Economic access has been denied to people forcing them to take up business in areas which are unauthorized but affordable,” he said,
According to Sayeed S Shafi, former chief planner to the Centre, “DDA should have developed commercial spaces according to the requirement of a particular area. Besides they should have seen to it that whatever proposals had been made are actually implemented.”