Master Plan aim: Green Capital, 24x7 economy
A 24-hour culture and business environment, more green spaces and water bodies, lower pollution emissions, and more accessible housing are among objectives in Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) Master Plan for 2041, a set of guidelines meant to underpin policies for housing, construction, transport, and environment over the next 20 years.
The Master Plan of Delhi-2041, at present a draft uploaded online for public comments on Wednesday, has identified a need to improve the city’s economic, creative and cultural opportunities, as well as make it ecologically sustainable while accounting for the projected growth of population to 29.2 million over the next two decades. Delhi’s population as of 2021 is estimated to be 20.6 million, the document said.
Work on the 2041 Master Plan began in 2017, and while a top DDA official described it as a “vision to foster a sustainable, liveable and vibrant Delhi by 2041”, citizen groups and experts said the blueprint at present is vague and ambitious, and must instead set a more clear roadmap, particularly in the area of pollution.
“This plan is for the city’s future for the next two decades. The vision is to foster a sustainable, liveable and vibrant Delhi by 2041. There are several policies and norms that have been introduced to achieve this. Now that it is public domain, we want more and more people to give their feedback on it after which public consultations would be held to finalise the plan,” said DDA vice-chairman Anurag Jain.
In terms of land management, the draft MPD-2041 focuses on reviving old neighbourhoods (unauthorised colonies, urbanised villages), allowing mixed-use development, providing affordable rental and small-format housing.
A significant proposal is also for DDA to end its role as a real estate developer, and instead take on responsibilities of a “facilitator” and a “regulatory” with the construction and development instead being given to private companies. “A paradigm shift is envisaged in the supply scenario, with the private sector leading the development/redevelopment of housing over the plan period. Public agencies shall play the role of a ‘facilitator’ and ensure ease of doing business, through appropriate regulatory environments,” the document added.
On public transit, it seeks to improve walkability and non-motorised transport, while on the ecology, it envisions the development of a green-blue (green spaces and waterfronts) infrastructure for sustainable development.
But the sector where some of the major changes are proposed is the city’s economy. MPD-2041 proposes a shift from manufacturing to clean industries such as knowledge and cyber, and a push to foster a “Night-Time Economy” (NTE). “Nodes, precincts or circuits shall be identified for continuing work, cultural activity and entertainment at night to attract tourists and locals,” the plan said.
It also added a new section to propose policies that build in “pandemic resilience”. These measures include reducing settlement densities to support the requirement of social distancing during pandemics, creation of multi-facility plots (particularly in dense unplanned areas) that can be temporarily repurposed along with other government facilities to reduce vulnerability to pandemics.
MPD-2041 has been drawn up by DDA and the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) after wide consultations with experts, residents, traders and other stakeholders last year. The plan will be sent to the Union housing and urban affairs ministry for notification after more public consultations, and DDA expects it to be notified by the end of 2021.
The MPD in force was for objectives till 2021. It’s core focus areas were environment, mobility, shelter, trade and commerce.
According to DDA officials, some of the key new policies may include the forming of a Green Development Area, which will allow development in green belts and major changes in the development control norms – which could become controversial from an environment protection perspective.
Environmentalist Diwan Singh said that the policy will only result in rampant commercial activities in greenbelt villages. “These are the green buffers of the city. What’s left if development is allowed in these villages? Instead provisions should be made that villagers can get revenue eco-system services or eco-friendly activities, etc,” he said.
The MPD-2041 also proposes that local bodies and the tourism department identify nightlife circuits (NCs) and permit extended timings for socio-cultural activities. For this, low-frequency public transport should be made available, it adds.
“Cities should consciously support night-time economies and active nightlife. On the one hand, it will support numerous economies that can thrive at night, for instance, cultural activities, certain industries, logistics, etc. thereby helping stagger work timings and reduce congestion on roads. This will also substantially increase productive use of city resources by utilising city infrastructure throughout the day, resulting in higher economic output. On the other hand, night life can also provide interesting options for citizens to participate in recreational, cultural and creative activities after standard work hours,” said NIUA director Hitesh Vaidya.
Vaidya said the “pandemic has shown that it cannot be business as usual anymore”.
“There is a need for the integration of health services with other city infrastructures. There is a need for detailed neighbourhood planning,” he added.
The MPD-2041 abandons the provision for Local Area Plans, which was mandated in the MPD-2021, and the DDA now plans to develop layouts that will be more detailed and map all infrastructure.
The proposed development of green-blue corridors will focus on improving drains and river waterfronts, and allow regulated development in green belt villages while preserving eco-cultural assets.
With dust pollution being one of the major contributors to air pollution, the plan has proposed that infrastructure agencies should prepare a dust management plan and get it approved by competent authorities.
Shortage of housing is also a pressing concern that the MPD focuses on. The DDA’s land pooling policy, which was approved in 2018, will make way for development of 1.7-2 million dwelling units in the outskirts of the city.
The new Master Plan further pushes for rental housing and small format housing complexes. “This is being done to provide affordable housing to a large section of people. An online portal giving information regarding availability, location, rentals, etc, shall be created,” said an official, who asked not to be named.
Like MPD-2021, this plan, too, focuses on congestion pricing in busy business districts, restricting on-street parking, and preparing market management plans in residential and commercial areas.
In the transport sector, there is a major thrust on promoting electric mobility, revival of the Ring Rail network, promoting cycling by developing dedicated corridors, and provisions for starting premium bus services on busy routes.
With e-commerce business picking up, DDA official quoted above said the authority has identified a need to streamline the freight logistics and distribution network to support this new business model.
MPD-2041 also has a detailed plan for monitoring the implementation of the Master Plan. DDA officials said that they have baseline data of all important sectors and to assess progress, three monitoring committees -- Environmental Sustainability Committee, Built Environment Committee and City Vitality Committee – will keep tracking related metrics.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said that this time, DDA has ensured that there is a multi-sector understanding of the environment crisis Delhi is facing. But, she added, the Master Plan could be pushed further by setting tighter deadlines for managing polluting sectors to ensure early and efficient results.
“What needs to be appreciated is that environment is not seen as a stand-alone category, each segment of the document, such as transport, industries, water management, links to the overall environmental issue. Finally, we are also recognising the multi-sectoral role in pollution and this will help us tackle this problem better,” Roychowdhury said.