Cesspool City(Abridged)
Chitvan Gill

The DDA demonstrates its ‘multi–pronged’ confusion in its plans for improvement of the environment and its management of resources. At the outset, we find a detailed lament on past failures, with the result that, today, “Delhi is considered to be among the most polluted cities in the world,” and that infrastructural shortages, including capacities for water, sewerage treatment, electricity, drainage and solid waste management, are assuming crisis proportions.

DDA’s latest Master Plan 2021 arouses a sense of profound frustration at its comprehensive inability to manage the city and its resources. There is no evidence of any urgency to map out and plan, in a concrete, time bound manner, the restructuring of Delhi’s environment in a sustainable framework. Instead, we find a continuous repetition of vague clichés and generalized declarations of intent.

Nothing better describes the rot of the system than the state of the Yamuna – Delhi’s principal water source. The river is so completely contaminated that it is described as ‘dead’ after it reaches the city, where 3,296 million litres per day of raw sewage meet its waters. MPD 2021 offers nothing that could significantly change this. It does, however, suggest “designation and delineation of appropriate land uses and aesthetics of the River Front which should be more fully integrated with the city…” A backdoor clause for more building in an ecologically sensitive zone?

70 percent of total air pollution is from vehicular emission, the result of a skew in the city’s transport system: buses comprise just 1.2 per cent of the city’s vehicles, but cater to 60 per cent of transport load; cars, 93 per cent of all vehicles, feed just 30 per cent of travel demand. “Public transportation planning must, therefore drive future policy...” The Master Plan notes that part of the problem of vehicular congestion results from “the policy of mixed land use”. But the whole of MPD 2021 is nothing but an elaborate plea for the arbitrary and indiscriminate extension of precisely this policy!

MPD 2021 notes the failure to maintain “previous Master Plan proposals for retention of Green Belts”. It expects to repair some of this damage by transforming agricultural land “from the NCTD boundary up to a depth of one peripheral revenue village boundary” into a Green Belt, “wherever possible”. But where? Most of the land along the National Capital Territory’s boundaries has already been urbanized or taken up by ‘farmhouses’.

There is much that seems to suggest that no one has read through MPD 2021 with any significant care – and worse, that no one is expected to, despite the ritual of ‘public notification’ and ‘invitation of objections and suggestions’.

The ‘availability and projections’ of capacities on various resources is a dramatic case in point. ‘Requirement’ for water in 2001 is put at 1,096 mgd and the projection for 2021 at 1,150; with nearly ten million persons added to Delhi’s population, the additional demand for water is expected to rise by precisely 54 mgd! The DJB itself points out that the DDA has got its projections wrong.

The same goes for sewerage. 2001 requirements are estimated at 877 mgd, estimated to rise to 920 mgd by 2021, a minuscule increment of just 43 mgd. Is the ‘projected population’ never to go to the toilet? Even presuming unprecedented and improbable efficiency in the utilization of these capacities, Delhi’s water bodies will continue to be hugely fouled through 2021.

Delhi is one of the dirtiest cities in the world and produces nearly 8,000 tonnes of waste everyday. Civic agencies manage to clear only about 4,884 tonnes of filth and most of the garbage is dumped in open land fills. Solid waste processing requirements in 2001 were 7,100 tons/day and MPD 2021 sees this rising to 15,750 – but this seems an underestimate. A Central Pollution Control Board Study has put the anticipated volumes in the region of 17,000 – 20,000 tons/day. The grand solution? “…there is no option, but to resort to alternative and decentralized methods of waste treatment, reduction, recycle and use…” And what specific facilities are proposed for these under MPD 2021? These alternatives “should be constituted and made effective”. This tenuous response for a city that is sitting on a ‘garbage bomb’!

MPDs projections for power requirements are dismissed by Delhi Transco Limited, the State unit that manages the city’s transmission grid: “Difficulties are created by the continuing mismatch between the situation envisaged in the master plan and the actual ground situation.”

MPD 2021 is to be executed by the multiplicity of agencies actually charged with the management of various resources and services. Given the very vague and contradictory guidelines and programmes of the Master Plan, they can only be expected to dash, blinkers on, towards uncertain, conflicting and frequently discreditable goals.

The writers is Convenor, Urban Futures Initiative
For detailed analysis: www.ufionline.org
Feedback and suggestions on the Master Plan: debate@ufionline.org






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