IAF aircraft fly past New Delhi’s skyline. (Image: Reuters)
Master Plan for Delhi (MPD)-2041, the fourth such initiative for the national capital, provides a strategic framework for the city’s growth with a 20-year horizon. Delhi’s population is estimated to reach 29.1 million by 2041— from the current 20.6 million—assuming a medium growth scenario.
Being the focal point of the larger urban agglomeration of the National Capital Region (NCR), Delhi is a major economic centre with a huge migrant population. Migrants are expected to account for almost 41 percent of the population growth during the plan period, signalling the need for new housing types and innovative solutions to address the needs of different income groups.
To address this requirement and several other areas of concern, MPD-2041 has been formulated with a thrust on the environment (green–blue infrastructure); economic, physical and social development and mobility management as key features of the plan. This article will touch upon a few takeaways from this progressive and forward-looking plan.
Preparing for exigencies
The plan has derived its set of learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic that has demonstrated the need to create self-contained and mixed-use areas with a decentralised infrastructure.
To address pandemic-like situations, the plan has emphasised on mixed-use development and vertical mixing of compatible uses within plots. This will bring offices and homes in close vicinity to facilitate self-sufficient isolation zones in case required.
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The plan to create multi-facility plots, particularly in dense unplanned areas, that can be temporarily be repurposed along with other government facilities aids in the future preparation to deal with emergencies.
Promoting better habitat design and green-rated developments to improve ventilation addresses the steps to tackle air-borne diseases. Such policy-level initiatives will enhance the livability quotient of the city and equip us to deal with health emergencies.
Addressing housing shortage
The plan outlines a comprehensive framework to address the housing shortage and meet the projected housing requirements through improvement in existing stock as well as the creation of new inventory.
Using the model of land pooling for large-scale greenfield development of housing will significantly enhance supply and also unlock the potential of these identified land-pooling areas. This will further pave the way for improvements in the infrastructure of the identified land pooling areas through planned transit networks for connectivity. Small format housing (40-60 sq m) shall be encouraged amid a paucity of land.
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The focus on the development of adequate affordable rental housing to support the migrant population is another highlight of the plan. Affordable rental housing stock is a step in meeting the government’s objective of “housing for all”.
The plan advocates private sector participation in this initiative, with the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) acting as a facilitator.
The proposal to create affordable public rental housing by DDA, and public agencies, on public lands in the vicinity of activity centres will also improve supply.
The Centre’s approval to the Model Tenancy Act will only complement this by unlocking housing stock for rental purposes.
Incentivising the private sector to implement rental housing or other non-ownership formats, including serviced apartments and worker housing, is a welcome step towards providing an enabling environment for such developments.
Permitting industrial areas and warehousing/freight complexes for development of affordable rental housing units by utilizing 15 percent additional FAR, promoting rental housing as part of group housing projects, and encouraging such housing in all greenfield, reconstruction and regeneration projects in the city are part of incentives for private sector participation.
Emulating the example of metropolitan cities across the world, the plan promotes affordable rental housing within the city and closer to workplaces. This ensures housing availability for varied income-groups, given the high cost of land in the city.
Transit-oriented development–improved quality of living
The plan to create compact, walkable, mixed-use developments within influence zones of mass transit is expected to serve multiple objectives. Transit-oriented development (TOD) will aid in unlocking the latent economic potential of an area as well as land values.
The development of strategic economic centres around mass transit projects will pave the way for new value-creating opportunities for real estate. The policy will spur redevelopment and densification of strategic areas in the city and improve public transportation.
While the huge investment in the city’s well-entrenched metro infrastructure can be capitalised, the strategy will lead to a marked improvement in the quality of living by reducing the need to travel long distances. This will also attract a high demand for real estate in such areas, while yielding huge benefits for the environment.
TOD policy will be applied to influence zones identified by DDA providing higher FAR norms and mix use in such areas. The high development potential of such areas will lead to the creation of well-planned growth centres and derive economic benefits for the city.
Moving to a 24x7 city
Promoting a 24-hour city by identifying precincts for continuous work, cultural activity and entertainment at night to attract tourists and locals is a welcome initiative.
This will be yield economic benefits by optimal utilisation of spaces for different activities, reduce congestion through staggered activities and improve safety.
Fostering a night-time economy, a concept largely prevalent in developed cities of Europe and the United States, will give the necessary push to Delhi’s creative and cultural industries, regenerate spaces, while making the city more dynamic and vibrant.
Preservation and rejuvenation of the city’s rich heritage, outlined as a key plan objective, will help in culture lending impetus to the economy.
Formulating strategies to utilise this cultural capital by initiatives like cultural festivals, food and heritage walks will give the much-needed boost to maintain these assets.
Changing economic needs
The need to address changing business needs with a growth in the knowledge economy has been highlighted in the plan. The high thrust laid on encouraging a start-up and innovation culture has created a plethora of such ventures in the new-age economy. To operate flexibly, such firms have a high preference for co-working spaces that provide modern office spaces replete with various amenities.
Permitting co-working spaces on industrial plots up to 10 percent of the FAR without any use conversion will facilitate operations of such innovation clusters in the economy. Developing new industrial areas (proposed for development by DSIIDC and/or developed in land pooling areas) as hubs of knowledge economy (with business parks, media clusters, R&D centres) will address the changing economic needs of the city.
Permitting conversion of industrial plots to warehouses within industrial use zones as per development control norms will cater to the rising e-commerce demand in the economy. This will strengthen NCR’s position as a key redistribution centre, given its seamless connectivity.
The plan’s focus on shared mobility, parking management and making the city walkable are welcome initiatives. The huge increase in the number of vehicles (643 per thousand population in 2019-20 from 317 in 2005-06) calls for the need to address the increased demand for parking.
Linking the supply of public parking within an area with its public transport accessibility level is one parking management tool being discussed in the plan.
Using parking charges to disincentivise the use of private transport in areas with adequate public transport, dynamic pricing for peak and off-peak periods, on- and off-street parking are among the measures to decongest areas.
Mechanised stack parking to maximise utilization is also expected to aid the capacity. Focus on demand management of existing parking by re-organising parking facilities and maximising their use is the approach to address the parking concern of the city.
The plan provides a comprehensive framework for green-blue infrastructure to enhance livability. Some of the steps include addressing the inequitable distribution of greens in the city, switching to greener fuels for public transport, promoting clean industries and low-carbon technologies.
Regulatory measures like congestion pricing to encourage use of public transport is also a step in this direction.
Checking the discharge of wastewater and industrial effluents in the Yamuna and steps to improve water quality are other measures discussed in the plan.
Including waste reuse and recycling practices in development schemes will help in making the city cleaner. Encouraging green-blue features within plots and buildings in all development projects and green ratings to reduce energy consumption are positive for the environment.
Though the plan provides an exhaustive roadmap for the city’s development, it will have to be backed by adequate monitoring. Being the national capital, Delhi has a unique governance structure that often leads to institutional complexity.
Multi-agency synchronisation between municipal authorities, local bodies, DDA, state and central governments will go a long way in bringing this master plan to fruition.
The plan to monitor on-ground progress of various policies and conduct a review every five years for any modifications is a positive step.
The proposal to set up three monitoring committees — environmental sustainability committee, built environment committee and city vitality committee—and have a procedure to track and report annual progress to an apex committee will aid enforcement.
The plan encompasses every aspect of urban development to aid Delhi to create its own future, a future that enhances the city’s attractiveness as an economic and cultural hub. The key to realisation lies in its implementation.
(The author is Managing Director (North), Cushman & Wakefield)