In a judgement dated October 18, 2012, the Delhi high court had stated that “the Master Plan of Delhi is a statutory plan prepared under the Delhi Development Act 1957 and has the force of law”.
Despite this, various government agencies responsible for urban development seem to have scant regard for the Master Plan Delhi 2021 (MPD) and continue to violate regulations allowing development on an arbitrary basis.
With projects worth several thousand crores that have been entrusted to it in the National Capital Region, the NBCC continues to implement projects with disregard for the MPD 2021 and other Zonal Plans, in which specific land use regulations have been prescribed.
The latest NBCC project that has attracted considerable public attention because of the tree cutting saga, is the proposed redevelopment of seven government housing colonies in South Delhi, covering an area of 605 acres. For six of these colonies the Delhi high court has asked the ministry of urban development to seek fresh approvals in accordance with the law.
For the seventh, the Nauroji Nagar World Trade Centre, the matter is to come up for hearing next month.
The 25 acre site for the proposed World Trade Centre at Nauroji Nagar is located on the inner ring road close to Safdarjang Hospital and adjoining the district centre of Bhikaji Cama Place. The site lies at the base of two flyovers on the ring road. As per the Zonal Plan for Zone J (South Delhi–II) dated June 8, 2010, the site is clearly marked for residential use – forming an integral part of the adjoining residential development of Safdarjang Enclave.
The arbitrary change of land use for the proposed commercial development is in contravention of MPD 2021 stipulations. No Change of Use notification has been issued to date, but NBCC has proceeded with the proposed construction at site.
In the process of implementing the construction, 1,465 full grown trees have been felled, and excavation for the three levels of basement has been done. No specific measures have been taken to protect the adjoining residential areas from noise and dust pollution during the process of construction.
However, construction has now been stopped pending court clearance.
The proposed World Trade Center consists of 12 towers providing a total of 32 lakh sq. ft of office space which will have an occupancy of 30,000 persons. Parking space has been provided in three levels of basement for 8,000 cars, which is 1,000 short of MPD provisions of 3 equivalent car spaces for every 1,075 sq. ft of office space.
Assuming an occupancy of two persons per car, this suggests that approximately 16,000 people may come to work by car and the remaining 14,000 office workers will commute using some form of public transport. Considering the location, this will certainly create traffic snarls on the inner ring road. Both, in the morning and evening, 8,000 cars entering from and exiting on to the crowded ring road will likely create a major traffic jam.
Additionally, the 14,000-15,000 people coming and going by some form of public transport will inevitably involve a pile up of taxis, scooters, and auto rickshaws along the entire frontage. A number of pedestrians will head for the nearest metro station in front of Bhikaji Cama Place. This congestion will add to the existing lineup of cars, scooters, and auto rickshaws waiting for patients and visitors in front of Safdarjang Hospital.
NBCC’s proposal for the development of the entire area of Netaji Nagar, Sarojini Nagar and Nauroji Nagar in a series of fragmented pockets is in clear contradiction of the MPD 2021 recommendations. The Master Plan clearly states, that for all redevelopment of areas in excess of 4 hectares (9.89 acres) a comprehensive urban design scheme shall be prepared. Not only has this not been done, but NBCC has proceeded to file separate and faulty Environment Impact Assessments for each area as well.
In order to justify the proposal for the large-scale commercial development of Nauroji Nagar, NBCC has stated that this is within the equivalent 10% of residential areas of the proposed Sarojini Nagar complex as commercial development permitted by the Master Plan. This is plainly absurd, as the site of the World Trade Center across the Ring Road forms part of a completely different zone.
The proposal also fails to acknowledge the existence of the large commercial centre of Sarojini Nagar market which is an integral part of Zone D in which the Netaji Nagar and Sarojini Nagar residential developments are located, and which is clearly marked in the Draft Zonal Plan for the area dated July 11, 2017.
It would appear that all the government agencies like the DDA, CPWD and NBCC feel free to brazenly re-interpret MPD regulations to suit their convenience, and are confident of manipulating sanctions for their proposals. This begs the question: do regulations not apply to development projects implemented by government agencies?
Ranjit Sabikhi is an architect and urban designer, formerly Professor of Urban Design at the School of Planning & Architecture, Delhi.