There is some very cheerful news for Delhi residents. This is the very ambitious new master plan – the Master Plan 2041 – for Delhi. Among its major goals are to develop a green and biodiversity-rich city, a city that is child-friendly and which offers safe public spaces for women. At the same time, there are plans to develop infrastructure that takes good care of the city’s housing, water, and waste disposal requirements.
No doubt, the goals are very well laid-out, but meeting them will be a tough task.
One of the most important steps in this regard, though, has already been planned. In the new master plan, there will be provisions to keep an eye on how and where the development plan’s recommendations are implemented on the ground. The key will be the ability to monitor implementation in specific areas.
National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) has already begun doing the needful to meet this goal. It is an autonomous institution under the ministry of housing and urban affairs. It is collecting all the relevant information and is in regular touch with important government bodies in Delhi. This includes the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) Delhi Police and the various municipal corporations in the city. They are working to identify the loopholes in the city’s infrastructure and how to fix them.
According to Jagan Shah, director of NIUA, the agency wants to learn from the thinking of all the stakeholders before they begin the planning process. They intend to complete this information and input gathering exercise by April-May. This feedback will prove to be vital in identifying the shortcomings of the present infrastructure. The idea is to attend to all of these in the new master plan. This, Jagan Shah pointed out, will also help in monitoring the progress of the plan at the implementation stage.
Experts say this very lack of information with the present master plan is the major hurdle in its good implementation. It will, however, thankfully, come to an end in 2021. And NIUA does not want to repeat the mistakes of the present plan in the new one. Hence, its officials said that they are now working with a bottom-up approach for the new plan. This will come into force in 2021.
To give an example, the present master plan does mention and shows a concern for the study of land distribution (forest, developed and undeveloped) in the city. However, this is put in very broad and general terms. Specifically, there are no details as to how much area is taken up by slums, unauthorized colonies, planned residential and commercial areas, and what percentage of land is simply lying vacant. This is the reason why over the years authorities have failed to contain land encroachments.
NIUA plans to map all the slums, unauthorized colonies, resettlement colonies, vacant and plotted land in the new master plan which is approved by DDA under the Delhi Land Pooling Policy. This information, officials say, will help in the better implementation of plans and more efficient use of land in Delhi.
NIUA has further decided to help local authorities come up with local area plans (LAP). This, experts believe, will be a critical step in the effective implementation of Master Plan Delhi 2041. This important suggestion comes from urban planning experts at the School of Planning and Architecture.
As Sanjukkta Bhaduri, professor of urban planning and dean (research) at School of Planning and Architecture, highlights, along with a participatory approach there is an urgent need to use technical data well to divide plans into projects and develop local area plans.
She further comments that LAPs hold great significance if the master plan is to be implemented effectively.
At present, there are nine major categories under which NIUA is gathering information. These are economy/employment, environment, heritage, land, housing, social sectors, solid waste management, transport, and water.
The institute plans to hold discussions with a diverse set of people and stakeholders. At present, it is asking for valuable advice of, through focus group discussions, public health experts, urban planners, and environment experts. Not to leave the common citizens of the city out, it will soon be holding the same discussions with street vendors, other people working in the informal sector, resident welfare associations, and with groups working with disabled people.
Developing child-friendly infrastructure is a major area of focus in the new plan. Right now, NIUA officials are making every effort to find out how the present infrastructure falls short in this regard. In today’s Delhi, there is a lack of child-friendly infrastructure, even around schools and in residential areas. Accordingly, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), in its meeting with NIUA, suggested the inclusion of plans to build integrated child services centers. These must attend to the needs of children of all age groups and from different social and economic backgrounds.
Ramesh Negi, chairman of DCPCR, believes that the focus should shift to planning and making child-friendly infrastructure and services available at the ward level. There should be, he further says, counseling services available to children belonging to all age groups in every municipal ward.
For Negi, a city like Delhi that is home to 19 million people, offers a very poor picture of infrastructure for children. There is a dearth of green spaces, open areas, and daycare centers like anganwadis. And even the ones running at present were not planned with the needs of 0-18 year age group in mind.
Kanak Tiwari, project coordinator of Master Plan Delhi 2041 who heads the child-friendly smart cities project at NIUA agreed that these findings are based on secondary research. However, he said, primary on-ground surveys have been undertaken. For example, the mapping of all schools in Delhi and the number of fire stations in their proximity. This becomes important because in an emergency fire station are the first to respond.
Another satisfying project of NIUA is to make residential areas and markets pedestrian friendly and make them safer for children and women. For this, it is also roping in technical advancements. For instance, they are in talks with a non-government organization like Safetipin which provides a solution to make urban spaces more women and children friendly.
Most important in this project is the lighting of dark stretches in the city. Kalpana Vishwanath, chief executive officer at Safitipin, highlighted the case of Dhaula Kuan. It is a very busy intersection but gets very dark and desolate in the evenings.
The list of concerns, however, does not end here. There are also plans to increase the city’s green cover, contain dust pollution, development of the Yamuna riverbank and floodplains. And not the least, fixing the looming water crisis situation in Delhi due to a receding underground water table.