Steps to decongest Delhi…

NEW DELHI: It is not stopgap measures like odd-even day road rationing or banning ageing diesel vehicles that can ultimately check congestion or pollution levels in the city. Experts say there is instead an urgent need for concrete, well planned steps to address these problems.

With the central government approving the land pooling policy for the planned expansion of the city and to meet the growing housing demand, the load on the capital’s civic infrastructure is only going to increase. So urban planners and transport experts feel it is time for the government to take concrete steps. In a 10-part series on how the authorities had tried to decongest traditional wholesale markets in the city , TOI reporters found that the government had to ensure meticulous planning, efficient coordination among various government agencies and political non-interference if it was to make a success of projects to unclog the city . The absence of such steps was the undoing of the decongestion measures proposed in 1990 in the Master Plan of Delhi 2001.

For one, say experts, Integrated Freight Complexes (IFCs), multi-modal freight complexes and commercial centres with better facilities need to be meticulously planned. They say a detailed survey should be carried out to identify trades that need to be relocated, while improving management and facilities at existing hubs. Not all wholesale trades need to be shifted out of their current areas, say experts. A more pragmatic approach is to analyse the relationship between the trade and the city .

“The purpose of shifting wholesale trade will be defeated if 10 small trucks enter the city instead of one big truck,” says Geetam Tiwari, professor transport planning and policy at IIT-Delhi. “It is unclear whether locating IFCs on the outskirts will result in decongestion. Instead, the authorities should develop transport facilities that give retailers easy access to wholesale markets.”

Of course, decongestion in certain areas is a necessity . “In the Walled City, for instance, wholesale markets should be shifted to protect heritage structures,” advises Faiz Hashmi, managing director, Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC). This body tasked with regenerating the Walled City can be a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that another expert, AK Jain, former Delhi Development Authority planning commissioner, advocates. “Multiple agencies are currently involved in the decongestion effort,” says Jain, “when a single agency , or SPV, should have the financial and land development rights to get that work done. This will also help in fixing accountability .”

Hashmi concurs: “If SRDC becomes a municipal body , as proposed to the government, it can perform more effectively. At present, we have to take the permission of the municipal corporations for all our projects.” In the absence of such coordination, projects become failures. Three of five IFCs proposed in the Master Plans 2001 and 2021, for instance, proved abortive because of a “disconnect between planning and ground reality”. “Plans should be realistic,” stresses Shamsher Singh, former chief town planner of the municipal corporations.” In a similar vein, urban planner Sanjukkta Bhaduri, professor at School of Planning and Architecture, adds, “Planning has no meaning if it is not implemented in a timebound manner.”

The confusion that can arise over poor coordination among specialised agencies is exemplified in the IFC scheme. Three IFCs couldn’t be developed due to landrelated issues, while the two that did come up are only minimally utilised. DDA vice-chairman Arun Goel says, “We have done our bit in developing the Ghazipur and Narela IFCs and have also allotted land to traders. But shifting traders there isn’t in our jurisdiction.” This is the sort of partial responsibility of each agency that experts advise against if the city is to see proper and planned decongestion.

Credits ET Realty

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