Can Delhi’s East Kidwai Nagar high-rise project be scaled down: High Court
The high court’s ruling is the latest in a series of controversies surrounding the East Kidwai Nagar project, which was redeveloped to create 4,608 “dwelling units” in place of 2,440 old government houses.
The high court on Wednesday asked urban planning officials to look into the East Kidwai Nagar project and review whether the number of flats in it should be reduced, after an expert report said the redeveloped housing and office settlement will lead to traffic congestion in key roads nearby.
The ruling is the latest in a series of controversies surrounding the project, which was redeveloped to create 4,608 “dwelling units” in place of 2,440 old government houses. The redevelopment led to the felling of nearly 2,000 trees, most of which have now been replaced by ornamental trees, HT reported in June.
Wednesday’s ruling came after an assessment submitted by transport expert Geetam Tiwari, a professor at Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi. Tiwari said the traffic assessment done by the National Buildings Construction Corporation for East Kidwai Nagar was based on data from 2010 and, when fully occupied, the settlement would cause congestion on Aurobindo Road and the already clogged Ring Road.
“UTTIPEC shall examine the report submitted by Prof Tiwari and indicate the corrective measure that can be immediately put in place. UTTIPEC may also consider whether occupancies are required to be scaled down,” justice Vibhu Bakhru said.
UTTIPEC (Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure [Planning & Engineering] Centre) has been asked to respond within two weeks.
UTTIPEC is an agency that examines and clears any project that could have an impact on traffic.
The court also asked the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) to file an affidavit indicating the source of water and whether supply in other localities would be affected in meeting the requirement for the East Kidwai Nagar project, which also includes offices and commercial spaces.
The court noted that the expert report found the development plan was based on an assumption that 70% of the occupants may use public transport. “According to her (Tiwari), the said assumption is not supported by any empirical data,” the court said. On an average, only 45% residents of South Delhi use public transport, the report had noted.
The court has also asked residents to submit affidavits declaring that they shall limit their vehicles to prescribed norms.
The NBCC has constructed 4,608 flats and provided 8,228 parking spaces just for residential use – meaning some homes have space for more than one vehicle. In addition to this, the complex has 2,088 parking spaces for commercial use.
“The NBCC shall also ensure that system of restricted entries is implemented so that limited number of vehicles in conformity with the norms is permitted inside the complex. All allottees shall be issued a permit in conformity with the said norms,” the court said.
Tiwari was critical of the parking space provided by NBCC. She has said that it is not as per the recommendations in the Master Plan of Delhi-2021, a blueprint that defines how and where homes, offices and markets can be developed in the city.
Appearing for the NBCC, senior advocate JP Sain told the court that the parking space was sufficient. The NBCC has submitted to the court that each residential and commercial unit will get parking space for 1.8 (or almost 2) passenger car units (PCU).
AK Mittal, chairman and managing director of NBCC, said, “I have not seen the court order. But we welcome any new study of the project… As for parking spaces, it is provided as per the development norms of the MPD-2021. The project has not been planned on TOD norms as the policy has not been notified. All necessary approvals, including from UTTIPEC, were taken by us.”
Environmental activists welcome the HC order. “The order proves the court has acknowledged there is a problem with the project and that proper precautions were not taken when it was sanctioned. It should set an example for other such projects in future which are sanctioned without proper assessment and precautions,” said Kanchi Kohli, environment campaigner and researcher with Centre for Policy Research (CPR).
The single judge bench was hearing a pending petition filed by senior advocate Aman Lekhi and Manali Singhal in 2014 alleging that the plan for the East Kidwai Nagar project was cleared without considering environmental implications, road space, or rights of residents.
When the court hears the matter on December 18, it would examine whether the project is in conformity with the Master Plan Delhi-2021 and whether the Environment Impact Assessment was required to be carried out.