It’s free-for-all in mixed land use Delhi neighbourhoods
Commercial activities on 2,138 streets in Delhi were regularised on the condition that civic agencies would provide parking facility, upgrade civic infrastructure. But rampant flouting of norms for 12 years led to the sealing drive on such roads.Updated: Dec 20, 2018 14:22 IST
Driving on the 60-foot-wide Bhishma Pitamah Marg in South Delhi is quite a task. Going through a 500-metre stretch of this road between the South Extension crossing and the Defence Colony intersection can be especially frustrating as haphazardly parked vehicles occupy a large chunk of the space.
The road has a timber and construction material market on one side and big showrooms on the other. Once a residential area, the road was declared a commercial street by the erstwhile municipal corporation of Delhi (MCD) in 2006 after the massive sealing drive that year.
It is among the 2,183 streets that were notified for commercial, mixed land and pedestrian use in September 2006 through a notification followed by amendments in the Master Plan of Delhi -2021 (MPD-2021). Commercial activity on these streets was regularised on the condition that the civic agency (now South Delhi Municipal Corporation) would provide parking facility, upgrade civic infrastructure, created space for pedestrians and ensure greenery.
Twelve years on, the place is in a mess, as predicted by Defence Colony residents who fought tooth-and-nail to stop the civic body from declaring it a commercial street.
“We had challenged the matter in the Supreme Court and later in MCD tribunal,” said Major General (Retd) Dalbir Sidhu, a resident of Defence Colony.
“We knew the civic agencies won’t be able to check rampant commercialisation on this street. Look at the mess now. All sorts of violations are happening here and the agency has failed to provide even basic parking facilities, which was a must as per notification norms,” Sidhu said.
The story is the same in East Delhi, where Vikas Marg and several roads in Lalita Park area were declared commercial to provide relief to the lakhs of traders from the 2006 sealing drive.
Residents of colonies where these streets are located are bearing the brunt of unplanned commercialisation. “There are thousands of offices on these roads but these are lying in a state of neglect. The agencies failed to provide basic civic infrastructure. This created a lot of problems for residents as we are forced to live in a mess with no infrastructure,” said K C Garg, a resident of Lalita Park in Laxmi Nagar.
At Lala Lajpat Rai Road, notified under mixed land use in 2006, shop owners and visitors park their vehicles on the road, leading to massive jams, residents complain. Pradeep Dutta, a resident of A Block, Kailash Colony, said, “My father bought the plot in 1957. At that time, it was purely a residential area. But today we can’t think of living in peace as my house is sandwiched between a guesthouse and a car showroom. Vehicles are always parked in front of my house and traffic jams are a common feature.”
Parking is a serious problem in majority of the markets. In the past 12 years, the civic agencies have failed to provide parking space.
BJP MLA Vijender Gupta, who was a member of the erstwhile MCD during the 2006 sealing drive, said providing parking and other facilities as per MPD norms was not possible.
“The mandate was to create parking space but it was not possible at every location due to shortage of land. We planned underground parking below parks but the Delhi High Court put a ban on this. We thought of multilevel parking with commercial space on upper floors so that the project could be financially viable but that did not work as well,” said Gupta.
The BJP-led civic bodies have been able to make just six multilevel parking lots operational in the city since 2006.
A senior official of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation admitted that the corporations could not spruce up facilities as prescribed in the MPD-2021 and failed to prevent further commercialisation of residential neighbourhoods and encroachments thereafter.
Former MCD commissioner KS Mehra, though, maintained that dozens of projects to develop underground parking lots across parks in Karol Bagh, Kailash Colony, Model Town and Chandni Chowk were taken up. “Some were successful while others were halted due to residents’ objections. But yes, MCD should have looked for alternative sites to avoid future chaos,” he said.
Urban planners attribute the chaos to incomplete planning and patchwork implementation. “We can’t deny the fact that both residents and traders benefit from the notification of roads under the mixed land use roads category. The problem happened due to the failure of civic agencies to manage the equitable distribution of the public realm and provision of urban services,” said Ryan Christopher Sequeira, an urban planner.
South Corporation leader of house Kamaljeet Sehrawat said the civic agency is working dedicatedly to provide infrastructure in commercial areas. “We are interacting with market associations and RWAs to understand their requirement. We have developed parking, drains, roads and other facilities in coordination with other departments in last six years and the process is on,” she said.
But continued violations forced the Supreme Court to revive the monitoring committee.
The sealing drive was back to haunt traders of Bhishma Pitamah Marg in May this year and the committee ordered demolition of extended boundary walls of at least 35 showrooms, banks, jewellery shops located on the stretch.