Delhi's Development Apathy


The general perception is that the national capital is running out of land to meet the ever increasing demand for housing. But experts say that “lack of space” is a myth” and authorities use it as an excuse to cover up their faulty planning and a lack of vision.

On the contrary there is a lot of land in the city which the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) doesn't seem to be aware of.

Recently, the DDA announced the results of the draw of lots for the flagship Housing Scheme 2014. The mismatch between the number of applicants and the flats available tells its own story: 10 lakh people applied for 25,040 flats costing between Rs 7 lakh and Rs 1.2 crore.

The draw that took place on November 25 saw over 1,000 applicants in the first waiting list.

Asked about the huge difference in the number of applicants and flats on offer, DDA vice-chairman Balvinder Kumar tells Deccan Herald, “The DDA is catering to a sizeable section of the population in Delhi. We are trying to meet the huge demand for constructing houses, and we are doing our best within our capacity and the resources available to us to solve the housing problems.”

“The department is in the process of mapping the land available in the city to initiate new ways to provide people better housing facilities,” he adds.

But the other agencies slam DDA for not providing land to them.

“The DDA has land but it doesn’t want to give it to us. According to the Master Plan 2021, the DDA is supposed to give 1,500 acres of land to the municipal corporation for the construction of landfill sites. But now the DDA is saying that there is no such provision under the master plan,” says a senior official with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation.
An official with the DDA refutes the allegations. “We have never sat on a piece of land. We transfer possession of land to other agencies if they fulfil the formalities,” says the official.

But experts say that the DDA itself is unaware of the land available in Delhi. “There are substantial plots of land in the city which the Delhi Development Authority doesn’t know of.

With the latest technology we can trace such vacant pieces of land,” says Anil Dewan, Professor of Architecture at School of Planning and Architecture.

The development of villages in the outskirts of Delhi can come to the rescue of the DDA.
“The moot question here is why everybody wants to come to Delhi? Why all the offices (including government institutions) have to be in Delhi? The development of villages in the outskirts of the city and shifting some of the offices there may help in decongesting the capital,” Dewan adds.

“Even the National Capital Region should be equipped with adequate housing facilities so that people start living in such areas,” he says. “Nowadays people live in Delhi and work in Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Noida. But if these areas are provided with better facilities then people will begin to reside in NCR,” he adds.

Another solution that Delhi may look at is pre-fabricated houses, add experts. “Pre-fabricated houses are the future because their construction is faster than the normal concrete structures. A person should not wait for years to build his house,” says Dewan.

Components of a pre-fabricated house are constructed in a factory and then brought to the site. “This method has another advantage that it causes less pollution at the site,” he says.

Pre-fabricated houses were first introduced in India in 1970s. Vikas Bhawan at ITO in Delhi was also constructed by this technique.

“The pre-fabricated technique was not very successful in India because the houses were not water-resistant and earthquake-resistant,” says a senior official with Department of Urban Development.

To which the experts say the situation has now changed. “Now there are latest technologies available in the market to deal with such issues and houses built with such technologies are strong and sturdy,” says Dewan.

Land pooling policy

But before it thinks big, the DDA needs to focus on an effective land pooling policy. According to the policy, small pieces of land will be pooled and then a chunk of it will be used for constructing housing complexes with proper water supply, sewerage, schools, parks and hospitals. “Housing complexes built under the scheme will be like small townships. The owners of the land will be given land, money and employment,” says Dewan.

“We are working on the land pooling system. There are private lands on the outskirts so we will have to see how we can apply the land pooling system to get rid of housing problems,” says a DDA official.

Experts say that plots near Metro stations can be used better. “Constructing housing complexes near Metro stations will also discourage people from travelling in their private vehicles,” says Dewan.

Unplanned development

Due to the housing scarcity people seem to move towards unauthorised colonies. “I applied for the DDA flat under their 2014 housing scheme and paid Rs 1 lakh. But my name didn’t appear in the list of candidates selected for the flats,” says R Krishnan, an east Delhi resident.

“Now I am left with no option but to look for a place in unauthorised colonies as I can’t pay an exorbitant rent,” adds Krishnan, who is a government employee.
The DDA agrees that the dearth of housing facilities has led to the increase in unauthorised colonies in Delhi.

Experts say the DDA has a chance of solving the housing mess if it makes an inventory of available plots, and identifies places to construct high-rise buildings.
“There is a trend that more dwelling units are coming up at the same plot and the number of families are increasing in one household. So vertical growth is the future,” says Dewan.

“But the biggest issue with vertical growth is lack of parking space. If the high-rise buildings can be planned near Metro stations, then it will take care of the parking issue,” he adds.

The Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC), which advises the Union government on aesthetics while developing the national capital, says effective planning is the need of the hour.

An architect with the DUAC says the last Master Plan 2001 could not be implemented because it didn't take into account increase in population.

“A thorough planning with a pragmatic approach and incorporating all the suggestions of the Master Plan 2021 can help reduce the housing woes in the city,” he adds.
“The planning should be futuristic and it should focus on the increasing population and influx of thousands from neighbouring states.”

There is need for more detailed policy making for urban planning, especially in cities which are seen as hubs of jobs. Experts feel there cannot be any solution while blaming the DDA alone as the problem is not specific to Delhi but across cities which have huge influx of migrants. Estimates fall short. This automatically puts pressure on the existing infrastructure in the city.

“How many of the people in unauthorised colonies can afford to buy DDA houses? So obviously DDA flat allotment cannot be a solution to cleansing unauthorised colonies. Besides nation-level planning to accommodate the migratory population in the bigger cities, there is a need to provide employment options closer to their homes. Also, satellite towns need to be developed, which can give more opportunities to people,” says Sonali Rastogi from Morphogenesis, an architecture and design firm.

Urban planning cannot be generalised, says a DUAC member.

“There needs to be more detailed studies. While a holistic approach needs to be adopted, individual attention needs to be given to different parts of the city to understand the problems faced by people in those areas. What works for one colony may not work for the other. The existing social infrastructure needs to be taken into account before further urban planning is done. More serious coordination among different government departments is required,” says the DUAC member.

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