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DDA okays Delhi master plan 2041, critics say layout ‘generalised’ & far from ‘ground realities’

Draft ‘Master Plan For Delhi - 2041’ will be sent to housing & urban affairs ministry for final approval. Critics say it lacks 'local-level planning', puts 'cart before horse'.

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New Delhi: After repeated delays and requests for postponement from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) Tuesday approved the draft ‘Master Plan For Delhi – 2041’. The approval was granted in a three-hour meeting at the Raj Niwas chaired by L-G V.K. Saxena, who is also chairman of the DDA. 

Replacing the ‘Master Plan For Delhi – 2021’ that came into force in 2007, this vision document — the fourth of its kind — will serve as a conceptual layout envisaging development in the national capital over the next two decades.

L-G Saxena emphasised that the thrust of the master plan 2041 is on “inclusive development, environmental sustainability, green economy, infrastructure development that included sufficient housing for all sections of the society, innovative interventions like TOD (transit-oriented development) hubs, land pooling and regeneration of the city”.

A voluminous statutory document, the master plan 2041 is divided into two volumes comprising 10 chapters and will play an important role in determining the shape of Delhi’s “urban environment”. The draft will now be sent to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) for final notification. 

Identification of corridors and trails to promote a night-time economy that will help make Delhi a safer and more vibrant city, apart from higher ground coverage and FAR (Floor Area Ratio) for schools, guest houses, etc., are some of the unique features of the master plan 2041. The draft also proposes the development of non-ownership/rental housing and affordable rental housing complexes (particularly close to mass transit spots) through new formats like serviced apartments, hostels, student housing and worker housing. 

Both citizens’ groups and the AAP, however, fear that the ambiguous language of the master plan will make its implementation difficult.

In a letter dated 28 February, DDA member Somnath Bharti urged the L-G to postpone the adoption of the master plan 2041 to give DDA members more time to “peruse and consider the bulky document at length and ensure adequate discussion”. Bharti, the AAP MLA from Malviya Nagar, argued his case by pointing out that the draft had to undergo 500 amendments due to a “lack of consideration and attention to ground realities”.

“What steps are being proposed to be undertaken to ensure that no further unauthorised construction/development takes place in Delhi? I would not hesitate in saying that all unauthorised development/construction in Delhi is solely because of inaction, possibly deliberate and with an intent to give builder mafia a free hand in Delhi, on the part of DDA all these years,” he wrote, in an apparent reference to the Mehrauli demolition.

Also Read: MCD is hard at work but Delhi’s looming landfills unlikely to go by G20 summit

Putting cart before the horse’

The ‘Master Plan For Delhi – 2041’ has faced criticism from many quarters over its “generalised approach” and the need for it to imbibe more decentralised and local-level planning for better execution.

A.K. Jain, former commissioner (planning), DDA, told ThePrint, “Delhi has a population equal to England. That’s why you need local-level planning to understand problems in specific areas. Citizens are more concerned about local issues such as drainage, and traffic congestion, among others. It would be good to involve/engage them and make them part of the planning process.”

Most features of the draft like the TODs, heritage conservation, higher FAR and increased ground coverage for redevelopment were already part of the master plan 2021, he added.

K.T. Ravindran, former dean of Amity University’s RICS School of Built Environment, said the plan covered “massive ground but still has fundamental problems that are inherent in any master plan”. 

“The implementation strategy is completely unclear. Now, a zonal plan will be made after that local plan, but it should have been the reverse. Planning should start at a lower level and then it should add up to the final master plan. In Delhi, they are putting the cart before the horse,” he added.

Such concerns resemble the ones raised by citizens’ groups, researchers, academics and RWAs (resident welfare associations) that came together for the ‘Main Bhi Dilli‘ campaign in 2021. The idea was to urge the DDA to make the process of planning more representative and accessible to all by enabling wide-ranging public discussions. 

This sentiment revolves around the argument that municipalities oversee development on the basis of city-level clauses formulated by experts who make these decisions in a highly centralised manner, while ignoring — as Ravindran puts it —  “the pulse of the people”.

According to Jain, lack of a provision for the digitisation of records and gaps in the policy application are other key issues in the draft that need to be addressed. “Land-pooling has been tried three-four times and issues emerged from that every time but they have not been properly addressed in the new master plan. Then there has been no digitisation of records of flats that can make the process easier but it isn’t being done. The conventional ways of planning are not enough anymore,” he said. 

Jain added that with Delhi reeling under sweltering heat in the summer months, the subject of climate change should have been given more priority. 

Ravindran, meanwhile, also had apprehensions about the dilution of public amenities in the master plan 2041. He pointed out that there was no provision for homeless people and night shelters in the draft despite Delhi having a population of over “one-and-a-half lakh homeless people of which 70,000 are children”.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: Govt plan to make Delhi ‘beggar-free’ still distant dream with 5-yr rehab project at standstill


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