Re-imagining a capital city: The Delhi Master Plan - 2041
A future-ready metropolis with greened river banks and less traffic, more open spaces, vibrant heritage spots and hubs of nightlife — take a look at how the Capital could change, if the master plan becomes reality.
Seven historical cities precede New Delhi, yet the national capital is still evolving. A new Master Plan proposes a 24x7 metropolis with cultural and business precincts; a city that is future-ready and provides a better quality of life to its citizens, addresses chronic problems of traffic congestion and pollution, offers more open spaces for the public and conserves its heritage in a people-friendly manner. As Delhi debates the provisions of the Master Plan - 2041, HT takes a look at how the city will change, if the plan becomes reality.
Delhi is a city of monuments. Hundreds of them have now been assimilated into the city’s urban sprawl. But it is mainly tourists that visit them. These buildings will now be made part of the city’s lived experience, with informal markets, food courts, cultural activities and walks and trails. The walled city, or Shahjahanabad, will be developed as a hub of cultural enterprise, combining the area’s historical assets and businesses. Owners of heritage properties such as havelis will be given incentives to conserve them so that the historical character of the area is preserved. Besides buildings, intangible heritage — festivals, traditional craft products, art forms — will also be promoted. Nightlife circuits will be developed in the vicinity.
The housing sector is in for some revolutionary changes. Taking up the role of facilitator, the Delhi Development Authority, the city’s main housing agency, will allow private builders to cater to the Capital’s needs. The focus will be on reducing the distance between residential boroughs and workplaces. The land pooling policy in urban extensions across Delhi will provide 170,000 houses, as well as small and affordable units of 40 to 60 sq metres. Under transit-oriented development, new housing projects are coming up around mass transit systems, which will reduce dependence on private vehicles and provide residential spaces near business districts. Emphasis will be laid on developing affordable rental housing for different income groups closer to their workplaces. For lower-income groups and students, government agencies will be allowed to develop Affordable Public Rental Housing (APRH) projects closer to activity centres such as industrial areas and educational campuses. Unauthorised colonies and slums will be redeveloped to improve quality of life in those areas too.
The plan proposes a network of decentralised workspaces such as co-working spaces and small warehouses for e-commerce. Strategic areas will be identified and developed as economic hubs, which will be well-connected by public transport modes. The existing business centres are congested, with most of the workforce commuting long distances every day. Gender-friendly streets, public spaces and workplaces with adequate childcare facilities will be developed too. Amid the pandemic, the plan proposes shared workspaces within slum rehabilitation projects, and support for home-based work. Separate plans will be created for the development of areas such as Connaught Place, Mandi House, Pragati Maidan and Indraprastha Estate, which are home to a mix of office, hospitality and retail spaces.
The stretch of the Yamuna that passes through Delhi makes up just 2% of its length, but accounts for 70% of its pollution. The new plan identifies the river as the city’s most significant “blue asset” and aims to curb pollution by stopping the direct flow of 24 major drains into the river by diverting them to sewage treatment plants. A grass and tree belt will provide a buffer of at least 300 metres along the edges of the river, in an effort to protect it from encroachment. Cycling and walking trails will be developed along the banks, to enhance the river’s connection with the city and its people (no permanent construction will be allowed). Round-the-clock manual and CCTV surveillance will be instituted to prevent the dumping of debris and any illegal construction on the floodplains. The river is part of several festivals celebrated in the city. Specific areas will be marked for such events.
A crowded city by day, Delhi goes surprisingly quiet by late evening. Most markets and shops are shut and public transport options become much more limited. Modelled on global cities, the new plan envisions a vibrant nightlife for Delhi, with 24x7 restaurants and commercial establishments and nightlife circuits around cultural precincts, heritage areas and central business districts. Though some areas do remain alive and vibrant at night, especially during festivals such as Ramzan, this is limited to small clusters and specific times of year. Now, local agencies will be encouraged to organise cultural festivals and night walks to promote nightlife circuits by collaborating with artists and cultural groups.
To make the streets safer, agencies will ensure proper illumination on the streets, and additional security. For easy access to the hubs of nightlife, certain buses and Metro lines will run their services late into the night. Most of these circuits will have pedestrian-only stretches to enhance the shopping and cultural experience.