The Uneven urban growth of Delhi-NCR
In terms of planned urban growth, the evidence for real estate development being backed by the creation of associated physical infrastructure is higher in Noida and Greater Noida.
In terms of planned urban growth, the evidence for real estate development being backed by the creation of associated physical infrastructure is higher in Noida and Greater Noida. Gurgaon and Faridabad are at the opposite spectrum, where infrastructure is developed after the real estate potential of an area has been nearly fully exploited. In other words, infrastructure projects in these areas is largely taken up only after an area is already primed for real estate growth. Even so, Gurgaon has seen the maximum capital appreciation for investors and end users.
The upcoming areas of Dwarka Expressway and new sectors on both sides of NH-8 up to Manesar are part of the Master Plan 2021. As a result, infrastructure development in these sectors is now being taken up actively to support the large residential projects expected to reach completion over the next 3-5 years. However, despite this forward-looking approach of capacity building and future planning, it remains to be seen whether the upcoming urban sprawl will be sufficiently supported by necessary infrastructure. Fundamentally, the Master Plan is a statement of intent and not a time-bound guarantee.
The Master Plan
Zoning and master planning is an exercise which allows the authorities to control the direction and extent of a city's growth boundaries while bringing newer areas under their management. At times, changes are required to ensure that the growth potential is not undermined by slow policy making. Bringing newer areas under development aids and benefits speculators and land owners as well as realtors who have already acquired land before the area was brought under the Master Plan.
But timelines in Master Plans are usually guiding in nature. In other words - though all major milestones to be achieved by the State authority in terms of improved road network, power capacity and sewage treatment facilities are linked to associated timelines, these are mostly indicative. Most of these undertakings are capital-intensive and part of larger infrastructure projects. Thus, there are invariably delays in their execution and subsequent operationalization. Also, it is only the larger projects to be undertaken by the authorities that have a guidance timelines associated with them.
Technically, a Master Plan brings newer areas under its purview so as to achieve a more comprehensive level of development. It also serves as a means to discourage development of urban villages and unregulated development near the growth corridors already under development. Thus, the benefits are towards creating a more inclusive development plan, keeping in mind future growth projections. This also fuels associated physical infrastructure capacity building. However, important issues such as power capacity building, environment impact assessment are not addressed.
Prepared for the future?
The 'future readiness' of a city can be gauged from its past pace of development, and from what it has already achieved in terms of infrastructure. This usually gives a clear idea of where the city stands in terms of its future planning.
The actual rate of population growth in these areas over the next 10-20 years is likely to exceed all previous projections. This means that these satellite cities are poised for a development explosion. With more families moving there, these satellite cities will be seriously challenged in terms of creating sustainable and liveable ecosystems. Noida-Greater Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad are expected to expand by 6-8 times their current size, with higher valuations for property following naturally on the back of developing infrastructure.
Is vertical growth a solution?
Growing vertically is often seen as a good option in a city lacking adequate space for growth and newer projects. However, the primary need in the NCR is to develop infrastructure at a pace that allows city boundaries to expand. This will not only bring better infrastructure to the far-flung towns but also result in more uniform growth. Increasing FAR to incentivise vertical growth can put immense pressure on a location’s groundwater - not to mention other natural resources. Power costs increase as water would have to be pumped to higher levels. Growing vertically is not always the solution. Rather, such growth is a precursor to newer challenges in a country like India with finite resources and lagging infrastructural development.