Help Delhi to breathe easy

Help Delhi to breathe easy

Delhi Master Plan 2021 dealt mainly with transportation and urban housing and just touched upon environmental issues. Neither was there any clarity on what needs to be done regarding environment issues nor was there any strategy to deal with the problem. May be it is felt that just like heat waves in summer and cold waves in winter, poor air quality is nature’s gift to Delhiites and government couldn’t do much than just blaming the farmers of Punjab and Haryana.

Delhi Master Plan 2041 will be the fourth Master Plan and it should be really a different one if it wants to make a difference to the life of Delhiites.

All the three earlier plans were developmental plans aimed at building basic infrastructure and housing. It mainly focused on what and where aspects of the projects and ‘how’ aspect was completely ignored. So, today construction is considered to be one of the main contributors to city’s pollution with government ordering complete ban on construction activities at times.

Delhi has seen three development plans so far (including the Delhi Master Plan 2021) and all these plans have been prepared by adopting a top down approach. And the new Master Plan too will follow the same approach and will lay down guidelines for the next 20 years on how and where Delhi builds its homes, offices, schools and industrial zones. That may the greatest drawback of the Master Plan undoing the basic objective of the plan at the inception itself. A true plan should involve the public at the initial stage itself and this will help to consider the ground realities while preparing the Master plan. A plan which is oblivious to the needs of the people cannot achieve its goal. After all, it is the people of the Delhi who are going to pay for results of the Plan. Had the planners taken ground realities into account while preparing the Plan, sealing issues wouldn’t have cropped up.  Perhaps Delhi planners have got to learn a lesson or two from Kerala which has prepared its district development plan based on inputs from local area development plan.

Delhi Master Plan 2021 dealt mainly with transportation and urban housing and just touched upon environmental issues. Neither was there any clarity on what needs to be done regarding environment issues nor was there any strategy to deal with the problem. May be it is felt that just like heat waves in summer and cold waves in winter, poor air quality is nature’s gift to Delhiites and government couldn’t do much than just blaming the farmers of Punjab and Haryana.

But it’s high time that we learn from our past mistakes and realise that Planning is not just about constructing flyovers, Metros and skyscrapers but also about improving the living standards of the residents. Clean air and water are basic things which need to be provided to the citizens. There is a need for integration of land-use, infrastructure, housing, transport and environmental factors to address issues like air pollution, congestion and other major concerns through planning.

Today Delhi is among the most polluted cities in the world and people are moving around with masks on. One of the biggest threat today faced by the Delhiites is that of longevity of life. Their survival itself is at stake. People are virtually living in the gas chamber and the Delhi High Court too had stressed the need to take urgent actions. Unless concrete steps are taken to curb pollution, things will worsen in the times to come as development activity grows and the population of the city swells.

While importance of roads, houses and hygiene surroundings cannot be undermined, environment and better air quality too are also important and cannot be ignored. More green belt areas, creating better pavements to encourage people to walk than use motorable vehicles and transit networks are some factors which the Master Plan need to consider seriously. Also limiting or re-routing the entry of heavy vehicles – one of the most prominent sources of pollution should also be considered by the planners.

One of the greatest hurdles our planners may face while preparing their plan (or their fight) to tackle air pollution may be lack of availability of suitable data. Strangely, we don’t have enough data on housing colonies, schools and hospitals located around pollution hotspots. So full use of Geographic Information System (GIS) should be made to locate these areas and to collect and analyse the data collected. Information and data available with the Delhi Pollution Control Committee should also be made use of. Children are the worst affected by air pollution and every efforts should be made to keep them away from pollution hotspots.

Redevelopment being one of the major aspects of Master Plan, planners should chalk out clear cut rules and regulations to carry them out. In most of the redevelopment  projects, cutting of several trees have been complained by the environmentalists and the Plan should find out ways and means to tackle this issue.

Preparing plans is one thing and implementing them and that too within the scheduled period and cost is another thing. If we are bad in planning, we are worse in implementing the plan also. Development plans all over the country have a poor record of seeing the things done. Our track record in implementing the plans is abysmally low and every care should be taken to ensure that the new plan is a different one in terms of achieving what we have planned.

 

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