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5 mega cities to expand Delhi

By Rashme Sehgal

New Delhi, Jan. 12: Delhi is all set to add another five mega townships to its burgeoning city line. The DDA has finalised its Delhi 2021 Master Plan, which will change the face of the city beyond recognition.

The city’s population will cross the 230 lakhs figure and it will gobble up an additional 27,000 hectares of agricultural land that comprises the remaining swathe of green in the National Capital Territory.

These five cities will be built in north Delhi with an area of 8,534 hectares, South Delhi with an area of 8,268 hectares, West Delhi with an area of 6,515 hectares, south West Delhi which will be developed as a major industrial hub, and northwest Delhi spread between Rohini and the Haryana border in the west.

The DDA claims these sub-cities will be self-contained units with their own hospitals, universities, markets, amusement parks and will also be provided with a modern public transport system. A budgetary allocation of over Rs 100,000 crores is likely to be earmarked to finance the building of these five super cities.

A confident DDA vice-chairman Dinesh Rai has declared, "These mega cities will accommodate a sizeable chunk of Delhi’s population by 2021. The draft zonal plans for the cities has been cleared and placed in the public domain for objections and suggestions. Once this process is completed, the draft plan will be finalised and sent for approval to the ministry of urban development."

Mr Rai adds, "Fourteen lakh new dwelling units will be built out of which 35 per cent will be for those belonging to the economically deprived sections."

The crucial question being asked is how will the DDA and Delhi government raise the money to finance such a mega project? Dunnu Roy of the Hazard Centre points out that the ministry and DDA expect to raise the money in three ways. "The DDA and the MCD will make a financial allocation of over Rs 10,000 crores from their own budgets. They will approach the National Urban Renewal Mission (NURM) with its Rs 150,000-crore budget to renew 65 Indian cities. From this, Delhi has demanded from the NURM an allocation of Rs 30,000 crores. Rs 30,000 crores is being invested in the name of the Commonwealth Games and another Rs 30,000 crores comprises investment by the Metro," Mr Roy pointed out.

Activists question whether the city will be in a position to absorb such a huge amount of concretisation? Diwan Singh of Natural Heritage First said, "The city needs to preserve its green belt and agricultural land, which are necessary to provide oxygen regeneration. A small country like Costa Rica is paying its farmers to preserve its agricultural land. We are doing just the opposite."

Town planners are even more worried. K.T. Ravindram, an architect who teaches at the Delhi School of Planning and Architecture, points out, "We all know the environs of Delhi are devoid of water. Fifty per cent of the city’s water is coming from Haryana and UP. Does the city have a contingency plan in place in case a hostile state government stops the water supply," he asks.

What is worrying these planners is that the DDA expects citizens to visit their office to inspect these zonal plans. Said one harassed planner, "We have made several trips to Vikas Minar and Vikas Sadan. The plans are simply not available. Why have they not been made available on the DDA website," she asks.

Planners are also surprised at how the draft zonal plans have been prepared without clearly indicating the land use and the "khasra" numbers of the agricultural land to be taken over. "This seems part of a deliberate conspiracy. Only seven of the 17 draft zonal plans have been put into the public domain while the last date for submitting objections is February 8," pointed out another planner.

Sanjay Kaul, who works on governance issues and is president of the United Residents Welfare Action Group, believes the Master Plan has been dictated by the builder lobby and corporates.

A substantial amount of these funds raised by NURM are loans from financial institutions owned by corporate houses. It’s a vicious cycle in which the corporates provide loans to the government and then, in turn, receive the tenders to build these infrastructural projects. "It is all being underwritten by the public exchequer and it’s the Delhi government who will pay for this," said one planner.


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