Delhi, India’s ‘first’ city, is slated to become the world’s most populated city within the coming decade, and it is expected to overtake Tokyo by 2027. In terms of sheer size and spread, Delhi’s regional conurbation already matches some of the largest global urban giants. The city itself has transformed substantially since the time of the first Master Plan for Delhi (1962) - spawning a complex regional network of towns and cities within the National Capital Region, shedding its earlier unidimensional image as the administrative capital of the country and emerging as a major economic center within the global economy.In doing so the city has acquired all the characteristics, complexities and challenges of a super-sized megalopolis. Rapid structural changes have left a plethora of issues in their wake, namely, low-density sprawl and unsustainable urban form, sub-optimal use of land, large trip distances and compounding transportation issues, acute housing shortages being met within unauthorized colonies, slums and Lal Doras, degradation of the built environment, pollution and allied health issues, extreme differences in access to civic services across space and class, and a growth pattern that is in obvious disharmony with the city’s natural ecology and heritage. Much of this change has taken place outside the regulatory framework of the Master Plan, with every subsequent revision of the plan playing “catch-up” to accommodate/regulate the changes. There is an urgent need to replace traditional ‘control’ oriented regulatory planning in favour of a ‘Strategic’ and ‘Enabling’ plan framework, that can nurture the future growth of the city.The present Plan will expire in 2021 and will be replaced by MPD 2041. This is an opportune moment to re-evaluate the present planning paradigms and potentially re-invent the way we think about the future of this city. Strategic thinking and application of cutting-edge ideas and technologies will be required for realizing Delhi’s potential as an economic and cultural powerhouse, as well as for turning around economic stagnation, physical degradation and stressed resources through new development as well as regeneration.Key departures from past efforts that will define the planning process adopted for MPD 2041:First and foremost, the next plan must recognize that cityscapes are shaped and reshaped by the actions and negotiations of various actors, and therefore build into its ethos a participatory approach involving different scales and types of public and stakeholder engagement. It will be important to re-invent the master plan as a ‘plural’ framework built ‘along with’ and ‘for’ the stakeholders who use, experience and craft the city;Second, megacities like Delhi establish strong live and work networks and dependencies with a large number of regional urban and rural settlements, throwing up complex trans-boundary issues, as well as opportunities for economic development and diversification. It is no longer possible to isolate the planning of the core city without adequate reference to such regional economic and spatial geographies. There is a need to reimagine Delhi’s role as the core of its global mega-region, and strategize both the relationships as well as the regional infrastructure needed for forging new areas of growth and economic vitality; Third, how people travel to and within Delhi - how much, how efficiently and how often - will be an important determinant of the future urban form of the city-region. On the one hand, the city will need to adopt a sustainable mobility strategy that addresses issues of local level walkability, green mobility and accessibility to affordable mobility options, and on other, develop a comprehensive plan for larger technological, infrastructure and management interventions needed to effectively manage both inter-city and trans-region movement of people and goods;Fourth, the entire planning ideology must be underpinned by an overarching concern for ecologically responsible growth and resilience. Whether this concerns the highly polluted river and natural drainage systems of the city, or the notorious image of the city as the air pollution capital of the world, or the imminent danger that is posed by development to the green assets of the city, Delhi will need to deploy a slew of innovative strategies if the present rot has to be stemmed and if we have to craft a turnaround in terms of ecological asset management;Fifth, cities globally undergo continuous redevelopment and transformation to keep up with the demand for housing and infrastructure. Large parts of Delhi are already built-up and a comprehensive redevelopment and regeneration strategy will have to be put in place for effectively managing this process of physical transformation. Questions regarding strategic redevelopment as a value capture mechanism, regeneration of old and culturally significant urban fabric, revitalization of ageing building stock and improvement of dense and unregulated areas will need to be addressed;And lastly, it will be critical to challenge a business-as-usual approach to planning, implementation, governance and monitoring and explore the possibilities ushered in by technology, artificial intelligence and big data in improving our ability to accurately predict and accommodate fluid urban landscapes and create a dynamic and adaptable framework for city planning. Given its complexity and global importance, any ‘transformative strategies’ and ‘big ideas’ incubated in the next Master Plan for Delhi, will be a blueprint for Indian cities and for urbanism across the Global South. With this in view, NIUA is collaborating with DDA to design MPD41 as an enabling strategic framework, capable of (i) ‘redefining’ the economic, physical, and socio-cultural directions that the city must adopt, (ii) ‘rethinking’ the strictly regulatory planning approach of previous planning efforts, and (iii) ‘reinventing’ Delhi as a productive, vibrant, equitable and sustainable city.
Name: Victor Rana Shinde
Name: Sarika Chakravarty
Designation: Sector Coordinator (Land, Transport & Shelter)