Move to develop transit nodes faces opposition
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is pushing for densification along transit nodes in its revised transit-oriented development (TOD) policy but urban development experts and civil society members are opposing the move.
They say, the policy, if implemented, will increase the burden on civic infrastructure and add to traffic congestion and air pollution.
In March, the land-owning agency had invited suggestions/objections from the public on the policy, which was revised by the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA). The revised policy focuses on high-density development around transport nodes (Metro stations).
In the previous policy, TOD was proposed along transit corridors (Metro corridor or Mass Rapid Transit System).
But, in the new policy, development is proposed along one Metro station (transit node) with high footfall.
Civil society members questioned the need for densification, especially when the city was facing a serious environmental crisis and efforts were being made to bring down air pollution.
Responding to the draft policy, Anil Sood, honorary president of CHETNA, a Delhi-based NGO, wrote to the DDA: “We oppose the policy as it considers public parks, government-owned land with dense tree cover such as Sarojini Nagar as ‘underutilised’ and thus ideal for construction. To develop these areas as high density areas, the entire locality will have to be cleared of trees, which are our natural air purifiers and water conservers.”
The draft regulations for policy implementation listed five Metro stations — Dwarka Sector 18, Dwarka Sector 21, Mayur Vihar Extension, Mukundpur, Sarojini Nagar and INA (combined)—to be taken up for development in the pilot project.
Urban planners and environment experts say the policy does not mention the criteria for selecting transit nodes.
Questioning the criteria, experts from the Centre for Policy Research and Space Matters said the idea of TOD is to bring people closer to transit options to reduce vehicular congestion and make the area walkable.
With a large percentage of city’s population living in unauthorised colonies, experts say the priority should be to make these areas livable.
With Delhi facing an acute shortage of water and Niti Aayog’s 2018 report stating that the city will run out of groundwater by 2020, experts added that densification should be done only if water is available.
“There is telling evidence that existing redevelopment schemes have been implemented without water, traffic and ecological assessments. The redevelopment of East Kidwai Nagar and seven group housing societies are under litigation owing to these issues. Any new policy should be preceded by a thorough public audit, especially since one of the transit nodes— Sarojini Nagar-INA—is close to these sites,” said Kohli.
Urban planners said TOD is needed for redevelopment, they added it has to be implemented at a city-wide scale.
Sabyasachi Das, former planning commissioner and the in-charge of Unified Traffic Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC), said, “In the previous TOD policy, a 500m corridor on either side of the Metro line was to be developed. It was difficult to implement it, as all locations may not be viable for planning and development. The present policy proposes node-based TOD, as it is being done in some cities abroad. It’s more viable to plan and develop nodes.”
While experts said node-based development is a good start “for TOD to be effective, it needs to be done at a citywide scale,” Sarika Panda Bhatt, associate director, Nagarro.
URJA, an association of RWAs in Delhi, said densification will worsen the present situation. “Crowding Delhi to amplify prices of land parcels may be advantageous for DDA, but it is damaging for residents,” wrote Ashutosh Dikshit, CEO of URJA in its letter to DDA.
DDA officials said all objections will be taken into consideration. “We will look at all suggestions before finalising the policy,” a senior DDA official said.