Sky Is The Limit for A Grow­ing Delhi

Lessons in ur­ban plan­ning from the Cap­i­tal

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

An ex­ci­sion of 5.1 sq km from Delhi’s posh­est res­i­den­tial area will cause much heart­burn among some well-heeled res­i­dents: but we wel­come the move, with some caveats. The Delhi Ur­ban Arts Com­mis­sion (DUAC) has pro­posed shrink­ing the area of the so-called ‘Lu­tyens’ Bun­ga­low Zone’ (LBZ) which ra­di­ates out from Raisina Hill and In­dia Gate at its cen­tre, to the di­men­sions orig­i­nally pro­posed by Ed­win Lu­tyens and Her­bert Baker from its cur­rent 28.73 sq km to 23.6 sq km. This will ef­fec­tively ex­clude eight up­mar­ket neigh­bour­hoods like Golf Links, Jor Bagh, Sun­der­na­gar, Chanakya­puri, Ben­gali Mar­ket and so on from the LBZ. It will also al­low th­ese ar­eas of Delhi to grow ver­ti­cally, a good idea since air is free but land is ex­tremely dear. And this is a les­son not just for pricey Delhi but for all of ur­ban­is­ing In­dia.

The floor area ra­tio (FAR), which lim­its how much of any project can be built up and how much ought to be left un­touched for recre­ation, pub­lic spa­ces, park­ing and so on, could also be re­laxed. This should be done with cau­tion and ex­ten­sive plan­ning: too many peo­ple in high­rises with too lit­tle space on the ground could cre­ate a night­mare for ev­ery­one. To make the de­vel­op­ment hab­it­able, util­i­ties like shops, power and wa­ter sup­plies need to be planned be­fore con­struc­tion starts. Delhi is earth­quake-prone: taller struc­tures are more vul­ner­a­ble than those closer to the ground. Yet, much of Ja­pan lives in quake-re­sis­tant sky­scrapers. Be­fore ex­pand­ing ver­ti­cally, take lessons from Tokyo.

Dense habi­tats, if prop­erly planned to ac­com­mo­date all rel­e­vant util­i­ties and pub­lic spa­ces in­clud­ing play­ing fields and parks, are far more en­ergy-ef­fi­cient than cities that just sprawl in low-rise lux­ury. The time and fuel spent in com­mutes is a huge drain on scarce re­sources. To op­ti­mise th­ese, we need to aban­don ob­so­lete town plan­ning con­cepts and adopt mixed land use, as well. Here again, proper plan­ning, reg­u­la­tion and en­force­ment hold the key. In their ab­sence, mixed land use can cre­ate in­hos­pitable hells for or­di­nary res­i­dents.

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