Millennium Post

Delhi won’t give way to high rises

The Delhi Development Authority [DDA] and union urban minister Kamal Nath’s assertion that Delhi should move skywards and built high rises, both for new settlers in the city and those who have been forced to expand in its slums has not gone down well with the architects. It is neither going to go down well with the citizen bodies nor the organisations. Over the years Delhi has earned the reputation that it can control urban sprawl in a sustained manner and can make way horizontally for new entrants to the city or those making newer demands of the city’s space. It has modelled itself as the other of Mumbai, where urban sprawl, degeneration and misery go hand in hand with new settlements and new high rises. But Nath clearly wants to go the Mumbai way and one would suspect that his market-oriented approach is more geared towards the real estate market and industry rather than the future of Delhi. His aggressive bidding for high rises and his lack of patience for planning as expressed in the workshop on Delhi’s master plan, where he made his comments, show that this man is in a hurry. And that is where Delhi Urban Art Commission [DUAC], the body of architects, urban experts and artistes, which advices the government regularly about urban planning, aesthetics and governance has found it objectionable. And rightly so.

Nath’s idea that it is better to construct environment rather than let Delhi’s slums multiply has some merit. But at the same time the answer may not be in building apartment blocks en masse, demolishing the character of Delhi and creating an urban sprawl worse than the slums. The way Nath looks at it, is, as per DUAC, is to build multi-storied slums instead of horizontal one, thereby bringing in profit for builders without giving much in return to the dwellers. This is bad thinking and more so because of the speed with which Nath wants to add the provision of building apartments as part of the Delhi mater plan 2021.

Add to this lack of patience, pertinent issues like electricity, water and basic services which are a huge problem and areas like Dwarka stand as bad examples of hurried planning to build sub-cities. Neither does Delhi want to replicate the experience of Gurgaon where malls are proliferate while water, electricity and roads are scarce. It will be a terrible usurpation of its character and urban nature if Delhi gives into the easy seduction of high rises. Delhi can grow in many ways and the city’s administration as well as its experts should explore ways in which growth could become integral to a vision of the city and not merely an ill informed minister’s speedy wish fulfilment.
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