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Insights into Editorial: Delhi’s Master Plan 2041, its key areas and challenges

 

 

Context:

The Delhi Development Authority gave its preliminary approval to the draft Master Plan for Delhi 2041.

The draft is now in the public domain for objections and suggestions from citizens, after which it will be enforced.

A master plan of any city is like a vision document by the planners and the land-owning agency of the city, which gives a direction to the future development.

It includes analysis, recommendations, and proposals keeping in mind the population, economy, housing, transportation, community facilities, and land use. The current master plan of Delhi Master Plan 2021 expires this year.

 

What is the Master Plan 2041 for Delhi?

The draft of the Master Plan for Delhi 2041 comprises two volumes and 22 chapters, which seeks to “foster a sustainable, liveable and vibrant Delhi by 2041”.

The master plan is one of the key instruments that facilitates Delhi’s development.

It is a ‘strategic’ and ‘enabling’ framework to guide the growth of the city and it builds upon lessons learnt from implementation of the previous plans of 1962, 2001 and 2021. The Delhi Development Authority is the anchor agency for the master plan.

The first volume is an introduction, providing an overview of Delhi in present times, its global and regional positioning, estimates of population, and projections for 2041.

 

How does the master plan tackle environmental pollution, one of the biggest crises of Delhi?

  1. The draft plan aims to minimise vehicular pollution through key strategies, including a switch to greener fuels for public transport and adoption of mixed-use of transit-oriented development (also known as TOD).
  2. It also addresses improving the quality of water, which is taken from the Yamuna river as well as various lakes, natural drains and baolis.
  3. The draft lays a clear boundary of the buffer zone near the Yamuna river and explores how to develop it.
  4. As per the plan, a green buffer of 300-metre width shall be maintained wherever feasible along the entire edge of the river.

 

How is the Master Plan 2041 different from the 2021 Master Plan?

  1. The world has gone through a drastic change due to the pandemic, and the growing population has led to shrinking spaces and unemployment.
  2. The Master Plan 2041 aims to develop common community spaces to provide refuge spots, common kitchens and quarantine space in an emergency.
  3. To improve the night-time economy, the plan focuses on cultural festivals, bus entertainment, metro, sports facilities, and retail stores included in Delhi Development Authority (DDA)’s Night Life Circuit plan.
  4. It also proposes to reduce vulnerability to airborne epidemics through decentralised workspaces, mandatory creation of open areas, better habitat design and green-rated developments to reduce dependence on mechanical ventilation systems.
  5. Decentralised workspaces shall be promoted in the form of co-working spaces, shared workspaces within slum rehabilitation projects, support for home-based work, etc.

 

What challenges will its implementation face?

The master plan on paper looks like a perfect document for the city’s progress.

However, when the implementing agencies try to replicate it on the ground, they face challenges like confrontation from political wings, lack of resources and funds, corruption in different departments, lack of political and bureaucratic will and multiplicity of agencies.

For instance, despite talks of increasing surface parking, removing junk vehicles, imposing fines for dumping debris, garbage burning, and segregation of waste, a lot of these things could never be implemented.

In some cases, like, increasing parking or increasing its charges, there is resistance from politicians due to vote-bank politics.

In other cases, lack of funds and improper implementation mar the projects.

 

What are the main focus areas of the master plan?

In the housing sector, it talks about incentivising rented accommodation by inviting private players and government agencies to invest more, keeping in mind the large migrant population.

It addresses parking problems and suggests a ‘user pays’ principle, which means users of all personal motor vehicles, except for non-motorised ones, have to pay for authorised parking facilities, spaces and streets.

Environment:

The city is quite green, although such spaces are inequitably distributed and their quality needs to be improved at many places.

Moreover, Delhi suffers from consistently high levels of air, water and noise pollution.

The River Yamuna is severely polluted, threatening not only environmental assets and the local biodiversity, but also the health of citizens.

The document proposes to improve the environment, with emphasis on preservation and enhancement of ecological heritage (Yamuna riverfront development, biodiversity parks).

The draft MPD 2041 stresses the need to augment the city’s preparedness to deal with pollution, for which it proposes a blue-green policy that integrates drains (blues) with the green areas around it.

There is provision to adopt strict norms to tackle air, water and noise pollution and Special Green Economic Uses that will have low floor-area ratio and large green areas.

Heritage assets:

Delhi is a cultural capital and has a large number of heritage assets. The preservation of assets and their adaptive reuse must be promoted to prevent degradation and loss.

Vulnerability:

Delhi falls in seismic zone four and is under high risk of earthquakes, fire outbreaks and flooding.

High built densities, poor quality and age of built stock further increase this vulnerability.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the need to create self-contained and mixed-use areas with decentralised infrastructure.

Economic potential:

Delhi must fully realise its niche role and potential as an economic hub. Specialty health and higher education are focus areas.

Cleaner production, startups, innovation and cyber economies have to be promoted by providing a variety of flexible and shared spaces to entrepreneurs in addition to opportunities and good working conditions.

Niche sectors such as specialty health, higher education, tourism and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE), modern logistics and specialised trade also need to be promoted.

 

Conclusion:

The challenge of multiplicity of agencies needs to be dealt with by the government.

This will increase coordination and cooperation among these agencies.

There must be a strict adherence to plans for cleaning of water bodies and drains which has been a challenge for agencies in Delhi for years.

There is also a plan to develop spaces for yoga, active sports, open air exhibitions, museums and information centres, and other low impact public uses.

Dumping of waste in the Yamuna River also needs to be strictly regulated.

A blue-green infrastructure, cycling infrastructure, walking circuits for pedestrians, and focus on unauthorised colonies to make it less dense.