Ranjit Sabikhi | March 18, 2015
The Delhi Master Plan 2021 has now become meaningless. The spate of recent notifications changing regulations relating to setbacks, ground coverage, FAR, height controls, etc, have resulted in fragmented and unrelated development across the city. Most of these changes have been made to meet the steadily increasing pressure for more intensive development, without a holistic review of their urban design implications. This will inevitably lead to chaos – the first stages of which are already apparent in the current messy traffic situation. Developments on the ground have forced DDA to review the Master Plan and make further changes.
The substantial increase of FAR has created many problems across the city. As per the 1961 Master Plan in accordance with which the city infrastructure was laid out, development on residential plots was restricted to two floors plus a barsati. This has now been changed with increased covered area to allow a stilted ground floor for parking, plus four floors of residences above, resulting in doubling the number of dwelling units, and corresponding increase in population. In the last few years this has led to an enormous spurt in residential construction across the city. No attempt has been made to review the detailed plans of specific areas and the necessary enhancement of traffic network, or the infrastructure services system. In most cases the ground floor of these newly constructed buildings has been put to other use, and the increased number of cars, are parked on the road outside, leading to massive congestion. All sidewalks have disappeared, forcing pedestrians to walk in the middle of the road. This is hardly a safe or desirable situation, and to date neither the police, nor the municipal authorities, have addressed this issue.
Similar problems on a much larger scale are likely to occur in the development of group housing. The original permissible FAR has been increased from120 to 200 with a maximum height of 15 metres, and on plots developed by land pooling the FAR has been doubled to 400, with no height restriction. As can be expected, with the increase in the number of dwelling units there will be an enormous increase in the number of cars calling for complete redesign of the traffic network. The need for the increased parking space will be difficult to meet at ground level. Several levels of basement will have to be considered, but that will be expensive. Multiple levels of parking decks above ground is an alternative, which will require new control regulations.
Byelaws relating to farmhouses have been modified. Originally a small, 500 sq ft, house was permitted on a one-hectare (2.5 acre) lot. Now the entire farmhouse area is to be converted to low-density residential housing. The stress on maintenance of substantial green areas has been removed, and it is now permitted to put up individual structures of 14,000 sq ft area with maximum of three dwelling units, on one-acre lots. Farm areas are served by narrow access roads, with no services infrastructure. The connected access and services infrastructure required for conversion of farmland to low-density residential requires an overall integrated plan, which has not been prepared to date.
The future of urban villages is uncertain. Guidelines for their development have not been notified. Most villages lack proper access roads, and services. Because of the growing demand for low-income housing, unauthorised construction in most villages continues in a haphazard manner. With proper planning, many of these urban villages could be developed on a comprehensive basis, to serve as well-organised settlements of affordable housing.
The permissible built-up area for all other uses has also been substantially increased. For commercial space the FAR in local community centres and district centres has been increased from 110 to 150. For government offices the FAR has been increased from 150 to 200, and for hotels the FAR has been more than doubled from 100 to 225. On industrial plots, depending on the size of plots the FAR has been substantially increased, and if located on roads wider than 24 metres, the use can be changed to offices/commercial, or even banquet halls. For communal facilities like hospitals the FAR has been doubled from 100 to 200, and for health centres the FAR has increased from 100 to 150. No proper planning for proper ambulance access and increased parking has been indicated. In educational facilities the FAR has been increased by 20 percent to 30 percent, with no mention of the minimum necessary open space for play areas, and sport activities. All these different uses are scattered across the city, which on development will have a significant impact on the traffic and services in the surrounding areas.
Recently notified changes in building and planning regulations call for a comprehensive new master plan for the Delhi urban area, projecting a clear picture of the city of the future. Flyovers, BRT corridors, and the DMRC network need to be linked together on a citywide scale. Improvement and enhancement of the overall services infrastructure is an urgent requirement. At present large parts of the city do not have a proper sewage disposal system, and only 66 percent of the sewage is treated before being discharged into the river. Several areas are not connected to the central water supply system, and depend on water tankers.
The proper planning of all areas along with an integrated traffic and services network needs to be part of the new Master Plan, along with updated zonal plans for different areas. This is a task that DDA in its present form is not in a position to handle. It has now become necessary to separate functions relating to the detailed planning of the city, from the activities relating to the development and sale of land. There is a fundamental conflict of interest involved here. DDA over recent years has concentrated on maximising profit from the sale of land, and has neglected proper implementation of the Master Plan.
A clear comprehensive long-term vision for the future of the Delhi urban area is now urgently called for.
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