Friday, October 22, 2021

How Delhi Master Plan 2041 Aims To Transform Air, Water, Land In The National Capital

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“Foster a Sustainable, Liveable and Vibrant Delhi”, that is the aim of the Delhi Master Plan 2041 (DMP) put out last week for the public to offer their comments and suggestions. But how is the master plan drawn up and what are its key focus areas? Here’s the lowdown:

Gauging 20-Years’ Worth Of Change

According to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the “anchor agency for the master plan”, it is “one of the key instruments that facilitates Delhi’s development by assessing the present condition and guiding how to achieve the desired development”.

The draft of DMP says that the first-ever master plan for the national capital was put together in 1962. It was followed by the master plans of 2001 and 2021. Encapsulating the all-round vision for the city, these plans contain the roadmap for the city’s development for the next 20 years and each new master plan is “an extensive modification of the previous plan document”.

According to the draft, MPD 2041 is thus a “strategic and enabling framework to guide future growth of the city”, its implementation being the “collective responsibility of all agencies involved in the development of Delhi”. That includes, among others, the Centre, the government of the NCT of Delhi, landowning agencies, regulators, and local bodies.

The View From 2021

The National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi is one of the most populous cities in the world and accounts for 1.39% of India’s population. At 20.6 million now, the population of Delhi is estimated to be close to 25 million in 2031 and would be about 29.2 million in 2041.

As against 6,352 persons per in 1991, as many as 11,320 people occupied every square kilometre in the city by 2011. Given that the Delhi is the focal point of the urban agglomeration known the National Capital Region (NCR) — approximately 55,083 in area and surrounded by the key cities of Noida and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh and Gurugram and Faridabad in Haryana — it is home to a large population of urban workers and is a major economic centre.

But being home to such a large crowd of people comes with its own set of problems and headlines that decry the “unbreathable” air or issues with the water supply are an annual ritual even as residents point to skyrocketing property prices and roads clogged with vehicles to bemoan the lack of planned growth. It is these and other problems that the DMP is aimed at addressing.

Among the issues that the DMP has flagged for Delhi going forward is the “degradation of built environment, mismatch between land use and transportation… proliferation of unplanned development, differential access to civic services across space and class, and a growth pattern that is in disharmony with the natural environment”.

To address these, the city would need to develop its “unique as well as niche assets and qualities to enhance its attractiveness as a global cultural and economic hub”, DMP 2041 says.

The Vision For 2041

DMP 2041 comprises two volumes. “Vision 2041 and Enabling Policy Framework”, the first of those, gives an overview of the current demographic and economic status of the city and divides the “vision, goals and objectives” into six sections that cover the environment, economy, transportation and mobility, heritage, culture and public spaces, shelter and social infrastructure and physical infrastructure.

The second volume contains the “Spatial Development Strategy and Action Plan”. As the name suggests, it highlights the major strategies and detailed provisions “covering both green field and brown field development in the city”. It also provides a ‘monitoring and evaluation’ framework for DMP 2041.

While the master plan touches upon virtually every aspect of city life, the key takeaways concern the strategies to mitigate air and water pollution and improve housing.

As any resident of Delhi will point out, it is the high level of pollution in the city that is the primary worry. The city has more than 10 million vehicles, the highest in India, and every winter emissions from cars combine with fumes from stubble burning in farmlands in Haryana and Punjab to make the air toxic to breathe. No wonder then that pollution is a major focus of DMP 2041.

To address vehicular pollution, “detailed strategies for reducing the number of daily vehicular trips and encouraging use of public transport and active travel” have been thought up. These include adoption of “mix-use and transit-oriented development (TOD) for reducing the average trip lengths and bringing jobs and homes closer to transit networks”. Taking forward the goal of clean travel, the plan will also encourage green mobility by “improving pedestrian, cycling and EV infrastructure”.

The master plan notes that “Delhi is a water scarce city and yet, the resource gets wasted due to systemic losses, lack of a conservation and reuse strategy”. Delhi is “well endowed with blue assets”, the plan states, but acknowledges that over the past decade, these assets have been negatively impacted by “encroachment, pollution and natural drying up of water bodies”.

Experts and activists have flagged the crying need for improving the status of the Yamuna that runs alongside the national capital and DMP talks about a multi-agency initiative to guide protection of the Yamuna floodplain. Thus, there will be a “300m wide green buffer wherever feasible with “suitable ground-cover vegetation (to) be planted for 25-30m.

The report notes that “densities vary across the city and low-density pockets are juxtaposed with highly dense unplanned areas” with most Delhiites living and working in the central, eastern, southern and north to central parts of the city. So, in the plan period 2021-41, “the western and northern periphery of the city is slated for large-scale development”.

The plan says that future housing requirements will be met through large-scale greenfield development using “the model of land pooling”. It adds that “identified land pooling areas have the potential to develop 17-20 lakh dwelling units”. DMP also talks about “development of low density and low floor area ratio (FAR) residential areas within the Green Development Area”. It will also focus on regeneration of existing areas through “improvement of existing stock and creation of new units”.

Takeaways from the 2021 Plan

The draft document says that the previous Master Plan, which lapsed this year, was “reviewed in detail in order to extract lessons from its implementation”. While Master Plan 2021 recognised the need to bring in the private sector to aid in the development process and “introduced several new principles such as pooling of land, mix-use development, transit-oriented development, etc.”, DMP 2041 seeks to take forward the “innovative paradigms… and introduces relevant policies… to nurture the future growth of the city”.

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