Delhi, the National Capital had been facing unprecedented growth after independence which had been a cause of serious concern to the Central Government because growth also comes with some challenges. Growth attracts not only investment but also people from the surrounding states. In 1911, Urban Delhi had a population of only 2.5 lacs which went up to 1.67 crore in 2011. Indeed, part of the population increase was aided by migration during partition of 1947 and later on between 1961 and 1971.
The concept of National Capital Region was developed mainly to solve the problems faced by Delhi by addressing those problems by adopting regional approach. Though the concept of NCR was first mooted by experts way back in 1959, the region got its first Regional Plan only after three decades, that is, in 1989. Presently, second Regional Plan is in operation (which will get over by 2021) and the exercise is on for preparing the third Plan.
World’s largest capital region
According to Shri Hardeep S. Puri, Minister of State(I/C) for Housing & Urban Affairs, National Capital Region (NCR) will become the biggest Capital Region of the World by 2027. NCR has grown gradually from about 30, 242 sq. kms in 1989 to 34,144 sq kms in 2005 to about 55, 083 sq. kms at present with a core of Delhi area being about 1,483 sq. kms. NCR’s population as per 2011 census was about 5.81 Crores which is likely to rapidly increase making NCR–Delhi the biggest and most populous capital globally by 2030.
Realty sector benefited
One of the sectors to gain the most because demarcation of NCR is the realty sector. Infrastructure within the region will improve (due to inclusion in infrastructure projects envisioned by the NCRPB for the entire National Capital Region) which in turn will push up the land prices in the region. Also, connectivity to Delhi will also improve which will also act as a positive for the real estate sector. In 2015, when the government announced inclusion of three new districts, namely, Jind and Karnal districts of Haryana and Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh to the National Capital Region (NCR) land prices in those districts went up substantially. Inclusion in NCR will help to attract more industries into the region which will also push up demand for both commercial and residential realty.
Uncontrolled increase in population
After the creation of NCR, the region has seen rapid growth but along with it population too has grown and that too beyond the projections of the planners. This has turned the available infrastructure insufficient resulting in stretched use of existing facilities. NCR has seen influx of migrants from various states, especially from Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh who come to the region in search of job opportunities and better facilities. In our democratic system, migrants do not feel bound by physical boundaries of the State while our administrative, development planning and resource allocation systems operate within the limits of territorial boundaries. If the population growth is not controlled, it is likely to lead to an explosive situation, leading to system clogging of civic support mechanism and the impacts of over-growth are likely to generate insurmountable and catastrophic consequences.
Pollution playing havoc
Development in NCR has come at the cost of environment – Delhiites and those living in NCR are paying a heavy price for the development by being forced to live in polluted environment – air, water and noise pollution. Delhi today is considered to be one of the most polluted cities in the world and continuation of this tag for long may result in dwindling foreign investment and also affecting inflow of tourists. The main sources of pollution are motor vehicle, stubble burning, conventional method of brick making, industries, power houses, effluent discharge for hazardous and noxious industries. Air pollution reaches its peak in winter forcing people to remain indoors and thus affecting their productivity and curtailing economic activity.
Even the functioning of National Capital Region Planning Board has received strictures, recent one being from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). CAG criticised the NCRPB for haphazard growth in the region and has pointed out the decline in Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ) area in NCR and delay in its delineation. Major natural features, identified as environmentally sensitive areas, like the extension of Aravalli ridge in Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi; forest areas; rivers and tributaries of major rivers; sanctuaries; major lakes and water bodies were demarcated as NCZ in the Regional Plan (RP)-2021. The RP-2021 had tentative boundaries of NCZ as it was prepared on the basis of satellite imagery of 1999 without ground truthing. When the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change raised the issue of mapping and delineation of forests and other ecologically sensitive areas in 2014, the NCRPB decided delineation by each participating state based on ground truthing and verification of state revenue records.
NCR concept in itself may not be wrong – problem lies in flawed projections, failed planning and slow implementation. Had the plan been implemented properly, NCR would not only have achieved its objectives but also would have become development model for other regions to follow. With the population of the region set to increase further in the coming years, problem of the Planning Board is only going to get multiplied, and may even become unmanageable, unless some drastic steps are taken at the earliest.