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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Karol Bagh revamp plan stuck for years, say traders

Karol Bagh’s traders and hotel owners, who have been demanding better civic infrastructure in the area, say the magnitude of Tuesday’s tragedy would have been more had the incident taken place during rush hour.

delhi Updated: Feb 14, 2019 14:33 IST
Risha Chitlangia
Risha Chitlangia
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A policeman seals Hotel Arpit Palace where a massive fire broke out on Feb 12, 2019.
A policeman seals Hotel Arpit Palace where a massive fire broke out on Feb 12, 2019.(Biplov Bhuyan/HT Photo )
         

Tuesday’s fire, in which 17 people were killed, has again put the spotlight back on the planning mess that has made Karol Bagh — one of Delhi’s busiest markets — into a tinderbox.

While Karol Bagh, Shahjahanabad (Walled City) and the Walled City extension (Sadar Paharganj) have been notified as ‘Special Areas’ in the Master Plan of Delhi-2021, urban planners say there is a need to prepare area-specific plans to control unregulated growth.

Traders and hotel owners, who have been demanding better civic infrastructure in the area, say the magnitude of Tuesday’s tragedy would have been more had the incident taken place during rush hour. “Fire tenders couldn’t have reached the spot in time as the arterial roads are choked with traffic due to on-street parking during market hours,” said Sandeep Khandelwal, president of the Delhi hotel and restaurant owners’ association.

As Karol Bagh is notified as ‘Special Area’, the development control norms for Delhi, as specified in MPD-2021, are not applicable here. In 2011, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had notified the Special Area Building Regulations, which are used to govern building development in the area.

But there is no plan in place for the development of Karol Bagh, which is already facing a serious traffic congestion problem due to the lack of basic infrastructure. “It is Delhi’s biggest and busiest market, but it doesn’t have proper parking facilities. There is no multilevel parking lot, despite one being proposed years ago. Cars are parked on the main road, resulting in traffic snarls,” said Murli Mani, president of Karol Bagh Vyapar Mandal.

With increase in commercial activity, the traffic situation has gone from bad to worse. The civic agency, in consultation with traffic police, had prepared a traffic circulation plan. “But it couldn’t be implemented,” he said.

Traders say they have made representations to the civic agencies to prepare a detail redevelopment plan for the area as mandated in the MPD-2021, which was notified in February 2007. But nothing has happened.

In 2013, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation had prepared a redevelopment plan for the Special Area. According to the plan, the Walled City, Sadar Paharganj and commercial areas of Karol Bagh were to be developed as a Metropolitan City Centre.

“Markets like Chandni Chowk, Sadar Bazaar and commercial areas of Karol Bagh were to be developed as business district. We prepared development control norms for these areas. We finalised the plan and sent it to the Delhi Development Authority for notification,” said Shamsher Singh, former chief town planner of south and north corporations who had worked on the plan.

For redevelopment of the area, the town planners had proposed amalgamation of plots. If property owners could come together and amalgamate their plots to get an area of 3,000 sqm or more, they could construct a building with 50% ground coverage and a floor area ratio (FAR) of 225 with a height restriction subject to clearance from the Airport Authority of India and other statutory bodies.

AGK Menon, urban designer, who has worked on the plan for Shahjahanabad, said, “These areas have outgrown so much and are well beyond what was planned initially. There is a need for an area-specific plan. There is a need to give people incentives for planned development. Amalgamation of plots is a good idea.”

But the plan is stuck due to technical issues. “It would have addressed a number of problems to a large extent. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi Act, 1957, doesn’t empower the corporations to notify a plan,” said Singh.

North corporation mayor Adesh Gupta said the plan was sent to the Delhi government for notification in 2017. “They had raised a few objections and sought clarification on certain aspects, which we clarified. They have been sitting on the plan ever since,” said Gupta.

Traders now want the civic agencies and the Delhi government to prepare a plan or policy for the area. “We are law abiding citizens. We have paid conversion and parking charges. We can’t formulate policies. It is the government agencies’ responsibility. We want them to expedite the process,” said Khandelwal.

First Published: Feb 14, 2019 14:33 IST