Planned chaos reigns supreme on VIP Road in Zirakpur

More than 50,000 people are being accommodated on around 125 acres — that is around two tricity sectors’ population crammed on a single road.

punjab Updated: Jan 13, 2018 15:03 IST
Munieshwer A Sagar
Munieshwer A Sagar
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
VIP Road,Zirakpur,economically weaker section
Traffic congestion on VIP Road on Friday night. The road is as narrow as 5m at some places.(Sant Arora)

VIP Road in Zirakpur has become a textbook case of how chaos can be created out of legalised development.

On approximately 125 acres of developed land around VIP Road, more than 1 crore square feet (sq ft) of residential space is either habituated or under construction.

The conservative estimate of total dwelling units (DW) range from 10,000 to 12,000 units. The commercial space of more than 20 lakh per sq ft is also in the process of development, which includes, booths, shops, shopping complexes and mall.

As per the Zirakpur Master Plan the VIP Road is a 25 m road, but, at present, at some places it is as narrow as 5 m. On one side, it opens at Zirakpur-Ambala national highway (NH), and on the other side, on the Zirakpur-Patiala NH. In the master plan, no road reservation has been proposed. The road suffers from various bottlenecks.

Scale of growth

“In Chandigarh, a sector is spread over around 250 acres and caters to a peak population of around 35,000. Similar is the case with Panchkula and Mohali sectors,” said Jit Kumar Gupta, former director, College of Architecture, Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), Bhaddal.

But, for the VIP Road, not less than 50,000 to 60,000 population is being accommodated on around 125 acres, that is, around two sectors’ population is crammed on a single road.

What about amenities?

In addition to the population pressure, there is also an issue of missing provisions for civic and social infrastructure on the VIP Road. In Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali in every sector large areas are reserved for schools, health care facilities, parks, roads, among other facilities, but around the VIP Road such amenities and infrastructure is missing.

“In a planned development area, particularly, in sectoral planning, in which a sector is spread over 250 acre, 55% of it is reserved for saleable area or constructed area, including housing and commercial spaces, and 45% of the total area is reserved for other civic amenities and infrastructure.

Of the 55% of constructed spaces, 5% is reserved for economically weaker section (EWS) housing, 5% for commercial spaces, and 45% for housing; 20% of this 45% can be used for group housing,” said Surya Kant, architect and urban planner based in SAS Nagar.

In Mohali’s new sectors, being developed by private builders, most of them have restricted the percentage of group housing to less than 20% of the net planned area; this is the case even though under the mega project policy they are allowed to plan it more than 20%.

If the educational and health care requirements are calculated for the VIP Road, as per the development controls laid down in the Zirakpur Master Plan, then it would require at least a health centre or four dispensaries, four higher secondary schools, 12 primary and middle schools, and two community centres.

The area neither has the stipulated provisions nor area for roads, open areas, educational and health care facilities.

Even when group housing dominates a sector, there is always enough space left for the basic social infrastructure and amenities.

For instance, Sector 20 of Panchkula, which shares it borders with Zirakpur, is a group housing (GHS) sector spread over an area of around 250 acres; 96 acres are reserved for GHS. The rest of the 150 acres is earmarked for social infrastructure and basic amenities. For instance, nearly 30% area of the total area is marked for roads, parks and green areas. Commercial area is limited to around 8% of the total area. There is also provision for schools, health care facilities, both in the public and private sectors.

Residents suffer

Even though the area around the road is yet to be fully occupied and commercial spaces are yet to become fully operational, the suffering of local residents has begun. “There are stretches on the road which are around 4 m only. Either there are encroachments on the road or the government hasn’t cared to complete the road,” said SP Bansal, president, residential welfare association (RWA), Hollywood Heights 2.

The traffic chaos has become an endemic on the road.

“All the vehicles from residences pour on the road. In addition to it, there are large number of shoppers and visitors to local commercial spaces. People also use the road to move to-and-fro between Zirakpur-Ambala and Zirakpur-Patiala NHs,” said RK Kalia, a local resident.

The residents also complain about the missing amenities. “There are no government dispensaries or hospital for local residents. There are private hospitals but these are too expensive for most people to afford, particularly, the retired people living here. There is no well laid out park or green space. As the commercial spaces are haphazardly developed, parkings are also haphazard in the area. Even basic infrastructure like rainwater drainage and street lights are missing in the area,” said, SP Baweja, chairman, residents’ committee, Rail Vihar.

Another resident of Rail Vihar, KL Gupta complains about ineffective policing in the area. “In the night, people park their vehicles on the road near liquor vends and create lot of nuisance for the local residents. But we haven’t seen police stopping such activities. If there were adequate provisions for amenities then things could change for good. But, now only piecemeal improvements can be done,” said Gupta.

Legal chaos

The municipal building rules allow group housing on 60 feet wide road and floor area ratio (FAR) of 1:2. The master plan only segregates areas in various zones. The state government allows population density of 450 persons per acre for group housing with dwelling unit having covered area of 1,200 sq ft, which builders have exploited to the hilt. As per municipal building bye-laws group housing and commercial complexes are considered as buildings, whereas, under Punjab Apartment and Properties Regulation Act (PAPRA) these are considered as colony. “What has happened in Zirakpur on the VIP Road is being repeated all over the state. Municipalities have to be reigned in from ruining urban development in the state,” said Kant.

Officials respond

When contacted, the president of Zirakpur municipal council, Kulwinder Singh Sohi, said, “We have widen up the road in most places. In some areas we have removed the encroachments, and will widen it further. We also stipulated that new projects will have to leave setbacks around the road. We are also working on improving other infrastructure like street lights.” Responding to the question why there are no provisions for parks, community centres, health care facilities, schools, etc, he said, “Within projects there are green spaces and clubs. Schools and health facilities are also there.”

Sohi refused to comment when asked how so many residential and commercial projects were allowed to come up on a single road, and that also without provisions for amenities, “I am only concerned with development of the area. For approvals you should contact the executive officer of the council.”

Manveer Singh Gill, executive officer (EO), Zirakpur MC, when contacted said, “I have only recently joined the MC as EO. I cannot comment on what was allowed or not allowed earlier.”

BLURB At VIP Road, more than 50,000 people are being accommodated on around 125 acres, that is around two sectors’ population crammed on a single road

First Published: Jan 13, 2018 15:03 IST