Delhi, the focus of the socio-economic and political life of India, a symbol of ancient values and aspirations and capital of the largest democracy, is assuming increasing eminence among the great cities of the world. Growing at an unprecedented pace, the city needs to be able to integrate its elegant past as well as the modern developments into an organic whole, which demands a purposeful transformation of the socio-economic, natural and built environment. The city will be a prime mover and nerve centre of ideas and actions, the seat of national governance and a centre of business, culture, education and sports. Apart from critical issues such as land, physical infrastructure, transport, ecology and environment, housing, socio-cultural and other institutional facilities, the cornerstone for making Delhi a world-class city is the planning process itself and related aspects of governance and management. This needs a coordinated and integrated approach amongst several agencies involved with urban services and development along with a participatory planning process at local levels. The biggest challenge to urban planning within Delhi arises from its fast-growing population. Delhi has a population of about 150 lakh, and this is slated to grow to 230 lakh by 2021 (Census estimates, and projections by DDA). Massive annual immigration into the capital puts immense burden on its physical infrastructure.
The socio-economic character of the city has also changed. More members within each family, work, and purchasing capacities have risen. Therefore, in addition to housing, the need for office and retail space has also grown. Finally, the fundamental character of the city has changed in recent years: from being the seat of the government, it is now transforming into an economic hub. The master plan and the land use norms need to reflect these imperatives. Vision-2021 is to make Delhi a global metropolis and a world-class city, where all the people would be engaged in productive work with a better quality of life, living in a sustainable environment. This will, amongst other things, necessitate planning and action to meet the challenge of population growth and in- migration into Delhi; provision of adequate housing, particularly for the weaker sections of the society; addressing the problems of small enterprises, particularly in the unorganized informal sector; dealing with the issue of slums, up-gradation of old and dilapidated areas of the city; provision of adequate infrastructure services; conservation of the environment; preservation of Delhi’s heritage and blending it with the new and complex modern patterns of development; and doing all this within a framework of sustainable development, public-private and community participation and a spirit of ownership and a sense of belonging among its citizens.
The Master Plan incorporates several innovations for the development of the National Capital. A critical reform has been envisaged in the prevailing land policy and facilitating public – private partnerships. Together with planned development of new areas, a major focus has been on incentivising the recycling of old, dilapidated areas for their rejuvenation.
The Plan contemplates a mechanism for the restructuring of the city based on mass transport. The Perspective Plans of physical infrastructure prepared by the concerned service agencies should help in better coordination and augmentation of the services. Promoting high-density development is needed if in future the city is going to rely primarily on public transportation. At present, because Delhi has a low-rise development and its commercial activity is spread over 10-15 commercial centers instead of one central business district, as is the case in, say London; the Metro operates at 20 per cent capacity. In order to do this, within the master plan the idea that experts approve of is re-densifying the city. The master plan recognizes that given the population pressure, the city needs to grow vertically. Hence it proposes removing restriction on height, allowing higher FAR (floor area ratio), and redevelopment through pooling of plots. If residents in a colony pool their plots to a minimum size of 3,000 sq m, they will be allowed to construct a multi-storied housing complex either by themselves or with the help of a developer.
Delhi as the National Capital has a distinct and unique character. It is a growing and expanding magnet of attraction for people from all across the country and also a hub for the region surrounding it. Planning for a metropolis like Delhi, therefore, cannot be limited within its boundaries.
The physical potential for further urbanization within the NCT is reducing although there is a virtual urban continuum between Delhi and the surrounding areas, which lie in the States of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. With the imperatives of growth and development, the problems of Delhi have become complex, which have to be viewed both as a challenge in terms of the pressures of regular and floating in-migration, as well as an opportunity in terms of planning and development in a regional context.
The Master Plan envisages vision and policy guidelines for the perspective period up to 2021. It is proposed that the Plan be reviewed at five yearly intervals to keep pace with the fast changing requirements of the society.