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Planning for a sustainable Delhi

Traffic congestion, lack of parking spaces, an increase in pollution levels, and encroachment of pedestrian spaces are among other urban challenges impacting people’s quality of life in the national Capital
By Risha Chitlangia
PUBLISHED ON MAR 26, 2021 04:58 PM IST
Representational image. (ANI)

Can you walk down or cycle to the nearby market without any hassle in Delhi? Not really, even as it became possible last year after the Covid-19 lockdown norms were eased in June. There was a surge in cyclists cycling for kilometres amid relatively lesser congested roads. The situation is now back to how it was before the pandemic for cyclists and pedestrians.

These are not the only problems that the rise in Delhi’s population has resulted in. Traffic congestion, lack of parking spaces, an increase in pollution levels, and encroachment of pedestrian spaces are among other urban challenges impacting people’s quality of life.

Delhi ranked 13th in the Union housing and urban affairs’ Ease of Living index of 49 cities with a million-plus population. Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Indore ranked higher than Delhi.

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is drafting a new Master Plan of Delhi (MPD-2041) for the city’s growth over the next two decades. Other policy decisions have also been touted as game-changers in making the city more liveable by ensuring sustainable development:

Transit-oriented development

Mobility is among the problems Delhi faces with inadequate public transport leading to an increase in private vehicles. Delhi has over 10 million registered vehicles and roughly 6,75,000 more are registered annually. The transit-oriented development seeks to reduce the dependence on private vehicles. The plan notified in 2019 envisages mixed land-use development (residential, commercial and office complexes) within 500 metres of mass transit facilities such as Metro stations.

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DDA has started work on the first such project at Karkardooma. It plans 12 transit nodes (Metro stations) which will be developed as per the policy in the first phase.

AK Jain, a former planning commission with DDA, said, “Land pooling and TOD [transit-oriented development] are important policies to ensure sustainable development. It will meet the housing requirement. But the focus should be on promoting the use of public transport.”

DDA recently proposed some modifications to the policy regarding parking spaces under the plan. They include a mandatory 5% of the parking area for bicycles and wheelchairs and at least 10% for charging points for electric vehicles.

Restricted parking space near Metro stations and multilevel parking

An increase in vehicles has resulted in parking problems in residential and commercial spaces with fights over them becoming common.

DDA has approved a policy to reduce parking spaces coming up along Metro corridors or near multilevel parking lots by 10-30% to encourage people to use Metro, which has a network of 389km spread across Delhi and the National Capital Region. The move once notified is touted as one of the crucial measures to address the growing traffic congestion problem. The policy is expected to encourage the use of public transport and push for transit-oriented development.

As per the new norms, for a property (except residential) within 500 metres of a Metro station, there will be a 30% reduction in the permissible parking space. For properties located over 500 metres and less than 800 metres from a Metro station, there will be a 15% deduction. For properties coming up within a kilometre radius of a multi-level parking lot, 10% of the permissible parking space will be deducted.

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Currently, a new commercial complex within 500 metres of a Metro station has to provide three equivalent car parking spaces for every 100 squares of built-up area.

Anumita Roy Chowdhury, the executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment, said after the entire Metro network is built in Delhi, nearly 70% of the city will be in transit-oriented development zones. “It is a good move that provision of metro and multilevel parking is being incorporated in calculating the parking space in development around it. But the provision should be applied to housing as well.”

Enhancing walkability

With pavements encroached upon, there is little space for pedestrians. As per a DDA report, nearly 34% of all daily personal trips in Delhi are “walk only”. Despite efforts to remove encroachment and to redevelop road infrastructure, Delhi is far from being pedestrian-friendly. In a push to make the city pedestrian-friendly, a walkability policy was approved in August 2019. The policy focuses on the integration of walkability into various policies and projects, using technology for preparing walking tours, providing barrier-free pathways, pelican crossings near schools and major pedestrian crossings and multi-utility zones to accommodate street vendors and other public activities.

Key features of the policy include time-bound implementation of area-specific walk plans, a centralised city-wide monitoring system, a mobile application to give information about walking and a Walk Delhi Coordination and Monitoring Committee.

The DDA has selected 22 locations such as Nehru Place where the plan will be implemented.

Development control norms for unauthorised colonies

The unauthorised colonies have been outside the planning ambit and deprived of basic civil amenities. The unregulated development there has been a major concern of planners and civic agencies. Efforts have been made to regularise close to 1,800-odd unauthorised colonies, but they have not yielded results. In 2019, the Centre decided to confer ownership rights to residents of 1,731 unauthorised colonies in Delhi. For this, the Parliament passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents in Unauthorised Colonies) Act.

A year later, the DDA approved regulations to ensure planned development in these colonies, which till now have been out of the purview of the Master Plan of Delhi-2021.

A DDA official said the development control norms for unauthorised colonies are part of the 2019 law. “...For the first time, detailed norms have been prepared for unauthorised colonies. Now that they are getting the legal tag. There is a need to have norms for planned development/redevelopment in these areas.”

The new norms have provision for amalgamation of plots, creation of social infrastructure and redevelopment of colonies.

Shamsher Singh, a former chief municipal town planner, said for any planned development in these colonies, redevelopment is the only option. “But these norms are more builder-oriented as it will be difficult for RWAs [Resident Welfare Associations] or individuals to comply.”

Land pooling to meet housing requirement

The lack of affordable housing in Delhi is one of the reasons for the mushrooming of unauthorised colonies. To meet the demand for affordable housing, DDA prepared the land pooling policy. The policy was notified in 2015 but the work for its implementation started in 2018. It will be implemented in 95 urbanised villages and seeks to provide close to 1.7 million dwelling units. Under the policy, 40% of the pooled land will be earmarked for essential services and civic infrastructure like parks.

Developers will get 60% of the total pooled land of which 53% will be residential, 5% commercial and 2% for public and semi-public facilities. DDA and other service providers will get 40% of the land for developing civic infrastructure. Over 6,500 hectares of land has been pooled so far under the policy. DDA officials said they are working on developing three model sectors in Bawana, Pooth Khurd and Sultanpur Dabas villages over 180-210 hectares.

Green area development

While the Master Plan of Delhi-2021, which was notified in February 2007, has been amended several times to fix planning issues, rural areas have largely remained untouched. Till recently, no construction activity was allowed in villages located in the green belt on Delhi’s periphery. This led to rampant unauthorised construction in these 47 rural villages, especially on agricultural land.

The DDA has prepared a new policy which for the first time allows planned development in these areas so that people living in these villages get access to better education, medical facilities and also an opportunity to earn their livelihood through development activities.

Residents of these villages say that with an increase in the population, there is a need for a plan so that people can construct their houses and earn their livelihood.

Bhupinder Bazad, president of Master Plan Committee of Delhi Dehat Vikas Manch, said, “There are a lot of warehouses in these villages which are currently unauthorised. As the population of the village is increasing, residents need space to construct new houses and also look for opportunities to earn their livelihood. The policy is the need of the hour. While we need to protect the green lungs of the city, we also have to provide avenues to villagers to earn their livelihood.”

No manufacturing units in new industrial areas

The Union housing and urban affairs ministry has broadened the definition of industries in the Master Plan 2021. As per a notification issued in October, information technology firms, media companies, knowledge parks, research and development centres, vocational training centres and even educational institutes will be allowed in new industrial areas. No manufacturing unit will be allowed in any new industrial area, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said while announcing the decision in November last year. He called the move a “historic and significant” step aimed at reducing pollution levels in the national capital.

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