Our earlier article, “In the Master Plan for Delhi 2041, a chronicle of chaos foretold” has been kindly received. This encourages us to set out our view of how the urban planning and implementation process should be conducted.
First, we need a declaration of the values that underlie all further work on the Master Plan. This is a statement of intent in broad terms. But it is important to avoid value statements with which no one can disagree. These all point in one direction: skyward. They take us nowhere. We need more practical, horizontal signposts that point in this or that direction, to be preferred over all others. The first and most fundamental characteristic is that the values, and the subsequent goals derived from them can be disputed. There exist alternatives over which the declared values and goals have been preferred.
We might say for example that we want a more egalitarian society with equal access for all to housing. Sizes will vary of course but housing will be made available to all income groups in proportion to each income group’s share of the total population, with perhaps a larger share for the lower income groups to make up for deficiencies in the past. Similarly there will be equal access to shared amenities (such as water, sewage disposal, schools, parks, hospitals) across all income groups. This is something that could attract covert or overt opposition. What is important is that in this declaration of values there is a clear expression of preferred directions.
These may be short term or long term. But either way they must align with the value framework that governs all further work. Here are illustrative examples:
Goal 1: Recast the urban planning and implementation process both at city and neighbourhood level, ensuring that the desired goals and objectives have the force of statutory law.
Goal 2: Provide affordable housing under various formats to all income groups evenly distributed throughout the city.
Goal 3: Ensure an adequacy of all basic amenities for families of all income groups: water supply, piped sewerage, electricity, garbage removal; and within walking distance (400 m) access to common amenities including schools, parks, sports facilities, medical facilities and shops for daily necessities.
Goal 4: Improve the health for all citizens, anticipating the impact of climate change while working towards minimising this impact.
Goal 5: Establish departmental systematic monitoring, evaluation, data publication and feedback loop for integrated and inclusive planning.
And so on.
The second characteristic of meaningful goals is that progress can be measured. For each of the goals suggested above it is possible to put in place a measure of where we are now to compare with where we are later.
These convert the desired goals into specific, measurable targets for action. Details of the units of measurement as well as the agencies which will conduct the monitoring will be spelt out for each Objective.
Example Objectives are:
Objective 1(a): To prepare within one year a draft of what the planning and implementation process should be. This draft should elaborate how local level planning will be carried out by the government of Delhi and higher level planning will be carried out by Delhi Development Authority. The constituents of higher and lower level planning are as follows:
(These are to be elaborated, considering that the draft Master Plan for Delhi 2041 in abiding by the Delhi Development Act indicates two tiers of planning – City and Zonal. Zonal areas in Delhi’s case are still too large to be categorised as decentralised planning. Local Area Planning as indicated in MPD 2021 and Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation guidelines requires integration into the Delhi Development Act to empower the various municipal corporations to implement ward or neighbourhood level local area projects.
The Act requires amendment to adopt a collaborative planning system similar to London’s. Local Area Plans should be reintroduced and notification of Master Plan should be carried out at the three levels simultaneously – City, Zonal and Local Area or Neighbourhood. This would ensure contextual regulations instead of generalised regulations and would have higher probability of successful implementation.)
The draft should cover sources of funding and responsibility for implementation.
Objective 3(a): To provide low income housing within each neighbourhood all over the city, implement within two years, on a pilot basis, five schemes of Community Land Reserves, similar to Forest Reserves or Wildlife Reserves, where land is taken off the market and set aside for providing low-income housing for all time. Appreciation in land value accrues to the Community Land Reserves and cannot be monetised by occupants.
Objective 3(b): Set annual targets to incrementally build to the projected per capita count of amenities at Local Area level to be included on a demand and need basis. Integration of amenities with active modes or with public transport is a vital parameter.
Objective 4(a): Air quality as measured in terms of Suspended Particulate Matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter; PM 2.5. It will be reduced at the rate of 10% of the existing level per annum.
Objective 5(a): The plan will assign responsibilities for implementation and monitoring in regard to each of these Objectives to specific agencies, which will be expected to report every six months on progress and proposed further action. The reporting will be part of a feedback loop involving all three levels of planning. Monitoring has to start at the Local Area Planning-level which is a realistic, tangible and manageable task. The entire process should be transparent and digitised.
We are not suggesting that the foregoing alternative goals and objectives are necessarily what should be adopted. They are only indicative of how they should be framed.
We appreciate the effort that went into drawing up the draft Master Plan 2041. As proclaimed by the National Institute of Urban Affairs, it was a mammoth task and took them four years and 200 experts and citizens to analyse and compile the ground survey. And for the first time since MPD 1962 such studies were placed in the public domain.
However, there is a need for more readiness to share data (especially land use data), as well as a more substantial engagement with the public. An important suggestion is that instead of developing a Master Plan in detail before revealing it to the public, it would be useful if the preparatory as well as later work could be shared with the public stage by stage to receive responses while work is in progress.
Better still would be that the Local Area Plans inform the Master Plan at the onset to make provision of requirements of the people. This engagement ideally should be a rolling process extending to the annual review of the Master Plan even after it is notified. Engaging with the public after work is finished, and only trivial changes are possible, makes a sham of public participation.
The introduction in the draft Master Plan 2041 aptly states, “Delhi has always been the showcase city in India, inspiring policies and projects in towns and cities across the country…” Therein lies an added responsibility on the Delhi Development Authority’s shoulders to create a model that other Indian cities could follow.
Delhi is one of the oldest and largest urban agglomerations in the world (it will soon overtake Tokyo) and requires clear articulation of a meaningful urban planning and design process that is worth emulating.
Shirish B Patel was the first Director of Planning & Works for Navi Mumbai.
Jasmine Saluja and Oormi Kapadia are both architects and urban designers and recipients of the first prize for an international design competition “Reinventing Dharavi” held in Mumbai in 2014.
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