Pandemic, fund crunch halt Delhi parking policy implementation
Haphazardly parked vehicles on roads and often pavements are a common sight in Delhi. Counted among the cities with poor parking facilities globally, Delhi continues to struggle to streamline its parking management despite a policy in place. Almost two years after the government notified the Delhi Maintenance and Management of Parking Places Rules, 2019, it has been put on the backburner by the three municipal agencies tasked with its implementation. The Covid-19 pandemic, fund crunch, lack of resources, poor enforcement, resistance from market associations have been cited as the reasons for it.
Delhi has at least 10 million registered vehicles including 7.9 million two-wheelers and 3.3 million four-wheelers. With 67,50,00 vehicles on an average added to Delhi roads annually, the parking woes continue to grow.
As per the policy, civic agencies were to make area-specific Parking Management Area Plans (PMAPs), regulate pricing, identify spaces for overnight parking of commercial vehicles, manage on-street parking and ensure charging facilities for electric vehicles.
The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) started the implementation of the policy in Lajpat Nagar-III on a pilot basis in January 2020. It prepared a PMAP under which lanes were marked for parking and non-parking purposes. Signage was installed to indicate no parking zones, tow-away zones, one-way lanes, and roundabouts. Vehicles of residents were to be provided green stickers while those of visitors red ones.
Similar plans were made for Krishna Nagar in East Delhi and Kamla Nagar in North Delhi and implemented under the supervision of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), which was dissolved in October 2020.
Officials cited a lack of funds and manpower due to the Covid-19 pandemic among the reasons for the non-implementation of the policy. The three pilot projects were put on hold due to the nationwide lockdown imposed because of the pandemic in March last year. A majority of the civic staff has been deployed on Covid-19 duties after lockdown norms were eased.
Prem Shankar Jha, SDMC’s deputy commissioner, remunerative cell, said even after the lockdown was lifted, the progress on the implementation of the policy remained tardy because of lack of funds and resources. “Before Covid-19, we prepared PMAPs for at least 10 residential as well as market areas such as Malviya Nagar, Greater Kailash-2, Aurobindo Place, Janakpuri, Rajouri Garden among others. PMAPs were to be implemented at these places after the Lajpat Nagar-III pilot project but before we could start work, the pandemic struck and priorities changed.”
A North Delhi Municipal Corporation official, who did not want to be named, said their priority is to pay salaries of employees and have no funds to implement the parking policy. “Due to Covid-19, the income of the corporation has drastically gone down. We are unable to pay salaries to the staff and they go on strike every now and then to demand pending salaries. We have a Kamla Nagar pedestrianisation plan ready, but we need resources and money for that. After Karol Bagh and Kamla Nagar, we had to prepare PMAPs in Kirti Nagar and Keshav Puram but that is put on hold for some time.”
Anuj Malhotra, a transport expert, said the progress of the project was good until it was being monitored by the EPCA. “There used to be review meetings at regular intervals where civic bodies and other concerned departments used to give status reports on the preparation and implementation of PMAPs. But after EPCA was dissolved in October 2020, there was hardly any monitoring of the project,” said Malhotra, who assisted the civic bodies in formulating and implementing PMAPs for Lajpat Nagar, Kamla Nagar and Krishna Nagar.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment, said the implementation of the policy is a very complex process and unless there is a continuous, consistent and stringent monitoring mechanism, it is very difficult to push this in the right direction. She said the city needs a strong oversight system and therefore it is needed to be put in place as a mechanism for compliance.
“The Supreme Court directive was very clear that the authorities will have to do this city-wide after the implementation of the three pilot projects in Lajpat Nagar, Kamla Nagar and Krishna Nagar. Even in pilot areas, things are now back to square one. So, the big message here is that unless you have continuous and stringent monitoring of the implementation, then even the small progress that we are making will get reversed,” Roychowdhury said. “We have no idea what happened to the progress of parking policy after EPCA was dismantled.”
Experts also blamed a lack of proper coordination among agencies involved in the project.
Roychowdhury called coordination among agencies a must for the success of any such big project. “There are several stakeholders involved in the implementation of the parking policy. So, that is why you need a strong oversight system for that coordination. A holistic approach is needed.”
Malhotra suggested a state-level technical coordination committee for the implementation of parking reforms. “Such a committee should consist of senior urban designers, traffic modelling experts. The committee’s main job should be to coordinate among agencies and to review the PMAPs and provide solutions to tackling an area. It should directly report to the urban development minister or chief minister. The committee shall also coordinate between different departments to help implement the PMAPs.”
A lack of a skilled technical workforce is seen as another reason for the lack of implementation of the policy. To address the issue, SDMC in September started training its officials, mostly engineers, on the modalities of PMAPs and how to implement them in neighbourhoods. “We have trained some staff in the three civic bodies to prepare and implement PMAPs, but we still need skilled hands,” said Jha.
Malhotra said the municipalities should also hire in-house urban planners and urban designers to create PMAPs to meet the parking requirement of neighbourhoods.
Roychowdhury said technical knowledge and skill-building is necessary to create technically sound teams to work on the creation and implementation of PMAPs with the help of professionals. She added the municipalities will have to make PMAPs in large numbers and for that, they need to develop a skilled workforce along with professional guidance.
Civic authorities re-implemented the pedestrianisation plan on Karol Bagh’s Ajmal Khan Road on April 1 despite traders’ resistance. The emergency lane of the road, which was taken over by vehicles earlier, has since been reserved for walkers and street vendors. At some points, vehicles continued to be parked on the pedestrianised stretch.
“We have reimplemented the plan as per the policy. Traders are opposing the move and we are now assessing the situation. We had invested time and money in making Karol Bagh a pedestrian-friendly market so we cannot let it become a chaotic market,” a municipal official said, requesting anonymity.
In June 2020, vehicular movement was allowed on pedestrianised stretches in Krishna Nagar, Karol Bagh, and Kamla Nagar markets on the traders’ demand.
Aman Rajput, East Delhi Municipal Corporation’s deputy commissioner, said that vehicular movement on the pedestrianised stretches under their jurisdiction continues as the traders are not supportive of the plan. “They say that their business is already down due to the pandemic and the people coming to markets prefer personal vehicles. So, they say that if the pedestrianisation plan is reimplemented, their business will suffer. We have also put on hold the PMPs for Laxmi Nagar and Geeta Colony as we cannot implement such plans without the public’s support.”