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Rethinking city spaces written by Mitu Mathur, published in The Pioneer. October 10, 2018

Given the onerous task of urban expansion which requires long-term planning, redevelopment of underutilised areas will provide a fresh perspective for New India

 

A report published by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs titled, &lsquo2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects&rsquo, predicts that around two-third of the world&rsquos population will live in the cities by 2050. India alone is going to add 400 million people. Rural migrants are streaming into burgeoning cities and if adequate arrangements are not put in place, human suffering will only increase. The staggering task of urban expansion requires long-term planning to provide affordable housing, open spaces and adequate infrastructure. It&rsquos whistling past the graveyard to think that a bunch of Greenwich village-style neighbourhoods will do the trick. Redevelopment of underutilised central urban areas is a step towards a fresher perspective for New India. Central Delhi is setting the stage for the redevelopment of prominent residential colonies which were developed for Government employees in the 1960s. Colonies have been identified on the basis of those having tremendous opportunity to accommodate more Government employees and at the same time, owing to their scale, set an example as a self-sustainable dense urban community. There are several concerns with regards to redevelopment schemes, the most prominent being its environmental impact and its direct influence on infrastructure and resources.

 

Density: The existing population density in most of these areas is 40 dwelling units/hectare, whereas the Master Plan for Delhi 2021 suggests a density of 200 dwelling units/hectare. In retrospect, the density of colonies in Dwarka, Rohini, Mayur Vihar et al is around 100-150 dwelling units/hectare. There is an urgent need to increase density in these areas.

 

Traffic: All these colonies are a part of central Delhi, which is close to the commercial and official hubs of the city. There is a dearth of Government residential accommodation in central and south Delhi and most Government employees reside in suburbs. Also, owing to the dilapidated condition and smaller size of the existing units in these colonies, a lot of people do not opt to live there. Hence, a majority of the employees have to travel to the work areas in central Delhi on a daily basis. This adds up to increasing traffic on the roads. If accommodation is provided to this population in central Delhi, it would not only diminish traffic, but can also reduce their travel time and increase efficiency. Hence, the prospect that redevelopment of these colonies will cause congestion, both in colonies and on roads, is actually going to further solve the issues of urban sprawl and help decongest city roads.

 

Water: Tremendous efforts have been put to minimise the use of fresh water and aim is towards zero discharge. With use of latest technology, the proposed developments will be using water more strategically. Methods like rain water harvesting, sewage treatment plants, designed use of treated water and use of effective fixtures have been proposed in the development of central Delhi.

 

Electricity: Families will be relocated to these redeveloped colonies and, hence, there is not much load that needs to be factored in. At the same time, a number of approaches have been put in place as per the Guidelines of ASHRAE 90.1 and the Energy Conservation Building Code norms to minimise electrical load required. Strategies like built-mass designed to reduce heat gain, on-site solar power generation and use of solar power, LED lighting and energy conservation through latest ECBC compliant power distribution system have been proposed to save upto 20-25 per cent energy.

 

Waste management: The aim is to establish a sustainable system for an organised collection and disposal process. The following are suggested for a more efficient waste management system in the colonies. Overall, the aim is to create a zero-discharge community.

 

i) Organised collection and segregation of waste: Segregation of municipal solid waste will be encouraged at the source itself by provision of separate wet/dry bins in each unit, dual garbage chutes and dedicated collection bins, both in basements and public areas. All the segregated garbage will be treated as per the MSW Rules, 2016.

 

ii) Organic waste compactors: Bio-degradable waste will be treated in the proposed (organic waste converter) OWC and the resultant manure will be used for green belt development and gardening.

 

iii) Recyclable waste: Waste compactors will be installed at dedicated locations on site and the recyclable waste will be collected and outsourced for recycling to the dedicated external agencies.

 

Green cover and trees: Various design approaches have been applied to save the maximum number of trees and proper space has been allocated to transplant the ones that have been uprooted. It has been observed that a majority of the big trees are along the existing road network. Hence, the network has been retained for the sole purpose of retaining trees. Also, since dust levels are very high due to very little green cover, the issue can be addressed with a well-thought out strategy to maximise green cover. For a city that was planned for only 1.8 million people is occupied by more than 10 times its population and urbanisation or densification is not a choice, it is the need for the hour, where we can still work towards containing and expansion capacity of the city.

 

(The writer is Director, GPM &mdash Architects & Planners)