RE-ORIENTING URBAN PLANNING STRATEGIES and The Master Plan of Delhi – Dilli hai jiska naam III: A.G. Krishna Menon

We thought of a series on Delhi that does not talk only of the narrow lanes of Shahjahanabad, the Mughalia, aka Mughlai delights and the lip-smacking Chaats of Chandni Chowk or the grand ruins of the seven Delhis and the wide open spaces and broad roads, but a series that also looks at the way Delhi has evolved. We wanted to explore the logic of the city and of the forces that have shaped the idea of the city itself.  It was this idea that made us approach people who have engaged with the city with love and care for decades and we requested them to write for Kafila. 

This series is titled Dilli hai jiska naam and the links to the previous posts can be found at the end.

This is the third post in the series by AGK MENON

Re-orienting urban planning strategies – The Master Plan of Delhi: A.G. Krishna Menon

Introduction

Delhi is an extraordinary historic city, comparable to Rome or Istanbul in the range and significance of its extant heritage. It is now the capital of a politically and economically aspiring Republican. However, unlike Rome or Istanbul, the significance of the city’s historic legacy plays little role in determining how the contemporary city is envisaged. In fact, this legacy is elided in civic planning and politically contested.  Therefore, when in January 2013, the Government of India forwarded a dossier to UNESCO, to nominate Delhi as a World Heritage City, it was a historic turnaround because it marked a paradigm shift in how the civic authorities sought to view its future.

Until then, India had never sought to celebrate any of its remarkable historic cities for their heritage characteristics let alone conserve it. However, it had been the contention of the Delhi Chapter of the Indian Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), that there was a strong correlation between not valuing the cultural legacy of historic cities and the degraded conditions they had been reduced to in contemporary times. For example, the Master Plan of Delhi officially identified Shahjahanabad, the pre-eminent Mughal city built by Emperor Shahjahan in 1648, as a slum that needs to be redeveloped in the manner the bombed out cities of Europe after World War II were rebuilt. These circumstances motivated INTACH to actively advocate the need to conserve historic cities and it worked to get Delhi nominated as a World Heritage City.

In India, several iconic monuments, and groups of monuments are, of course, valued as evidence of the country’s cultural legacy and the more iconic ones (about 3,760 in the entire country) are conserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). But these are generally isolated objects in the modernising landscape The idea that a historic city, like Varanasi, Ujjain or Madurai, or cultural landscapes like Braj, or the any number of religious ritual circuits in the country, were also evidence of the country’s heritage, to be valued equally for their civilizational significance had not taken root in the cultural imagination of of either the ASI or, indeed, our society. Under the circumstances in 2010, when INTACH approached the ASI, who were the agency designated by the government to handle World Heritage matters, with the fruits of two years of research, documentation and a well-constructed case for nominating Delhi as the first Indian World Heritage city, there was great reluctance to process the dossier that was submitted for their consideration. Perhaps this was on account of unfamiliarity with the subject, since they had never thought of a city as heritage, but it was, perhaps, also due to a deeply embedded skepticism about the validity of the exercise that they were being asked to process. They felt that it was akin to asking UNESCO to consider a ‘slum’ as World Heritage and, not surprisingly, at the end of the presentation made to a committee specially constituted by ASI to consider the application, the Chair, a venerable, retired officer of the Indian Administrative Service, succinctly summed up his decision: “Over my dead body”!

During the course of the compilation of the dossier similar negativity had been encountered from other stakeholders of Delhi’s heritage as well –  politicians, bureaucrats, professionals and citizens – because there was indeed a deep antipathy towards dealing with the historic city as a valuable cultural asset. During the period when the dossier was being compiled, everyone’s attention had been directed towards preparing Delhi to host the Commonwealth Games and making it a “world class city” and, therefore, to work on making the city a World Heritage City went against the grain.

Conserving heritage in India is widely viewed as putting road blocks to development. However, while advocating the the cause of conserving (parts of) the city as heritage, a few neglected monuments were conserved to ‘beautify’ the city, but undertaking the task of nominating the city as World Heritage was not on anyone’s radar. Thus, it took considerable persuasion to get the civic administration to eventually come on board and take ownership of the dossier to nominate Delhi to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Cities. One of the benefits of preparing the Dossier was that a vast amount of knowledge about the diverse nature of the heritage of the city had been compiled which enabled INTACH to mount a comprehensive exhibition that showcased, for the first time, the immense richness and diversity of Delhi’s heritage legacy. This contributed to increasing public awareness, particularly among students, who championed the case for nominating Delhi as a World Heritage City.

The nomination of a city in accordance to UNESCO protocols is a very complex technical, administrative and public relations process and, in India, since it was the first time that it was being attempted, everyone was learning on the job. It was remarkable, therefore, that everyone aligned their roles to accomplish the task and the completed dossier was sent to UNESCO in January 2013. That the government that came to power after the dossier had been submitted was not persuaded of its benefits is borne out by the fact that they withdrew the nomination from contention in May 2015, just before UNESCO was to take a decision on the dossier, because it feared that a World Heritage status for the City would put constraints on on their political agenda to change the character of the city. Delhi’s failure, nevertheless, contributed to changing the perception of urban heritage because, subsequently, Ahmedabad and Mumbai also filed their interest in seeking World Heritage nomination and Chandigarh was being considered on the basis of a trans-national nomination submitted by the French government for the works of Le Corbusier. All three initiatives succeeded, thus contributing to expanding the pool of knowledge about urban heritage among Indian professionals and officials, which will undoubtedly benefit the conservation movement in the country. The government, for example, has initiated the HRIDAY Mission to upgrade the infrastructure of several iconic historic cities thus reversing the years of neglect they had been subjected to in the past.

So, what were the lessons learnt from the failure of the Delhi nomination? At a profound level, the nature of Indian urbanism, which was terra incognita to both local and international experts came into focus and began to receive due attention from both urban planners and policy makers. Indian cities are generally benchmarked against models of cities in the developed world because the nature and civilizational characteristics of Indian urbanism were seldom understood or valued. This perspective was rooted in two hundred years of colonial perception of Indian cities that viewed Indian cities as “chaotic”. These views have not only been internalised, but also internationalized. The objectives of modernising cities have reinforced this perception. This is the challenge facing urban planning in India, both at a disciplinary and professional level.

Managing urban space in a historic city like Delhi

This essay is about managing urban space in Delhi. The lengthy introduction was necessary to provide a glimpse of the complexity of managing urban space. Urban space in India, particularly in historic cities like Delhi is a contested terrain that is not amenable to easy resolution – least by following the facile models of the so called “world class cities” that decision makers have a propensity to emulate. In Delhi, as it is, undoubtedly, in many other urban area in India, the great numbers and diverse mix of population, all aspiring for a better quality of life, demand the pursuit of more context-specific planning strategies. It is often a matter of survival, for individuals, communities and society-at-large as, for example, in the case of water or environmental management; it takes on moral and ethical dimensions when the issues are framed in terms of social and cultural equity; aesthetic aspirations of what image the city should be, for both the consumption of residents and external audiences, introduces still another contentious dimension to planning urban spaces. Indeed, the causes of urban discontent are many and strategies for mitigating them constitute the objectives of urban planning. But urban planners in India, in their pursuit of modernizing cites, seldom consider this perspective to determine the future of the city. Therefore, while not undervaluing any of these, or even other equally important parameters to plan for a better Delhi, this essay will focus on conserving its cultural assets, not only because it offers a more compelling strategy to manage complex urban spaces, but also because of the inappropriateness of the influence of globalization on local urban planning, it offers valuable alternate strategies to manage urban space. For example, the potential benefits that could accrue by focusing on conserving the cultural heritage of the city could range from re-writing theoretical discourses on planning Indian cities at one level to developing more satisfying urban environments at another. It is also a well-established fact that to confront economic competitiveness it would contribute to boosting the considerable potential of the cultural economy of the city.

In an earlier essay that was published in the Economic & Political Weekly, titled, “Imagining the Indian City” (Mumbai: volume xxxii, No. 46, November 15, 1997, pp.2932–36), I had identified the limited vocabulary of the Indian urban planner by enumerating the major strategies they employed to deal with the problems of urbanization, and further arguing that these strategies tended to exacerbate the situation rather than resolving them: thus, there was need to reformulate urban planning strategies for managing Indian cites. Here, let me recapitulate the gist of my argument.

First, urban planners have accepted the ‘universality’ of British experience because the methods, devices and legal instruments of urban planning that are employed are based on British models. These instruments were adopted virtually in the same form as they existed in Britain at the time of Independence and have not changed significantly since then even though they have evolved considerably in Britain, indicating a professional distancing from local urban contexts and issues. 

Second, urban planners in India have shown a marked proclivity for drafting patterns of land uses instead of planning policies and programmes. These land use patterns are based on a few ‘plans’ or conceptual diagrams derived from a) the Garden City concept, and, b) the baroque city plan as reflected in Lutyens’ plan for New Delhi. 

Third, they have shown a preponderant bias towards beauty and order in town planning, modeled on their superficial, almost literal, understanding of the City Beautiful Movement. Today, this bias has morphed into government programmes such as the SMART city mission, and into pursuing what Rem Koolhaas has called the “generic city” to describe the new developments in Singapore and other East Asian cities, to tackle the problems of urbanization in India. The “generic city” is based on the pursuit of high capital and technology based solutions to urban problems, which is clearly inappropriate for Indian conditions.

Fourth, the urban planners will easily absorb bold proposals made by foreign experts — these proposals in the past have included such ubiquitous city structures like a) poly-nodal urban districts containing segregated functional-use zones and b) neighbourhoods in super-blocks with continuous green parks modeled after Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh plan. Today the favored strategies include high-speed transportation corridors, Transport-oriented development and gated communities that disenfranchise a majority of the urban population.

Fifth, more complex ideas such as the one represented by the Structure Plan concept that permits flexible development options tied to larger social and economic goals, and of course, the recommendations of the National Commission on Urbanization, both of which were propounded in the 1970s and 1980s, appear to be beyond the grasp of the profession and are therefore ignored.

Sixth, I concluded that all this indicated that the Indian urban planner was, culturally speaking, ‘anti-urban’. This is as much a reflection of the larger culture of society as it was the specific characteristic of the profession. This speculation was also borne out by the preference the town planner have shown for ‘green’ and ‘beautiful’ imagery in their proposals for the development of towns, and implicitly, an aversion towards understanding and dealing with the dense urbanity of historic settlements.

And finally, the Indian urban planner being a low level functionary in the decision-making hierarchy of the Government did not feel ‘responsible’ for any of the planning proposals they formulated in the discharge of their duties.  Naturally, therefore, cities are in the mess they are.

There is obviously a need to ‘de-colonise’ the professional imagination by restructuring the discipline of urban planning in India. This does not imply, as many in power today assert, that everything that changed in Indian society on account of colonisation should be exorcised; rather that, through careful consideration in each instance, there is a need to distinguish between instruments which were relevant in a pre-colonial and colonial context and what is relevant today.  In the case of urban planning there is a need to distinguish between the way urban planners conceived the city then, and the way cities ought to be conceived today.  Since the profession of urban planning was established during the colonial period and urban planners conceived the Indian city as outsiders looking at an alien situation the question of what ought to be the Indian city during colonial times was answered by looking at what existed in negative terms, and looking at the colonizer’s experiences in their home countries as normative models. Scholars in many disciplines have explained the self-serving, exploitative nature of this colonial strategy, but not urban planners. Changing the existing urban planning paradigms is now an inescapable conclusion, and changing the way urban planners conceive the city is an important beginning.

To accomplish this change will require the sort of research that is currently not taking place in academic institutions. There have been few attempts to understand the complexity of the urban condition in India (with the major exception of the Report of the National Commission on Urbanization), consequently restricting the imagination of the town planner. The singularity of our urban condition derives from the fact that Indian society has widely plural characteristics, temporally, culturally and economically. 

Similar conditions perhaps do not exist in other societies, old or new, at least not in the form they exist in India, and while we may gain some insights through cross-cultural references, it would be futile to adopt models wholesale from other contexts as is the present practice. The complexity of the situation can be gauged by the fact that in town planning terms, not one, but several disparate circumstances need to be reconciled simultaneously: neat suburban developments with homogenous population and the persistence of the heterogeneous ‘chaotic’ traditional settlements; the city of the ‘haves’ and the city of the ‘have-nots’; Lutyens’ baroque city and the qasba; the automobile and the bicycle; and so on.  There are no models to conceptualize such a heterogeneous city anywhere, so Indian town planning will have to become self-referential.  In spite of the complexity inherent in this perspective, there are promising clues which need to be explored further.

One promising area of enquiry lies within the field of urban conservation. Urban conservation projects have demonstrated that a study of traditional settlements with a view to develop them offers a rich mine of information that could be excavated profitably by urban planners to resolve contemporary urban problems. This perspective forces the modern urban planner to abandon inherited colonial models of urban development and focus on trying to understand the characteristics of the here-and-now of the built-up areas within towns. These historic precincts have so far been both academically and physically neglected and are therefore, the lessons they could offer to understand Indian urbanism is lost. These traditionally evolved settlements are the repository of culturally embedded methods and devices which are useful for planning contemporary cities. Almost a century ago, Patrick Geddes convincingly demonstrated that this was possible in a manner that the modern town planner needs to re-examine. Geddes looked at the city as one organic system that was amenable to a carefully structured process of healing and encouraging natural growth. His approach was context-specific: it offers both an effective and satisfactory strategy to tackle the problems of Indian cities.

Urban conservation projects are necessarily context-specific. They force the urban planner to look more closely at the origins of the problems in order to find an appropriate response rather than rearranging them to fit a pre-determined order, an order, moreover, derived from contexts and cultures other than the one they are dealing with. This does not mean that there are no over-arching objectives to guide urban conservation initiatives. To begin one could consider such broad objectives like improved quality of life at the local level, sustainable development at the level of society, and ‘people-first’ approaches to problem-solving in general. Of course, there are other issues that need to be addressed, but suffice it to say that an urban conservation-led approach to resolve the problems of Indian cities offers a different way to engage with the city in India than what has hitherto been attempted by urban planners.

What emerges from this approach is an inclusive, multi-valent city, what Robert Venturi called a ‘both-and’ – and not an “either-or” – environment. Not surprisingly, one begins to realize that in terms of settlement density, social heterogeneity and economic mix the modern Indian city would have an urban character not seen in cities developed by the urban planner today.  While real problems such as infrastructural and other forms of deprivation have to be resolved, the new terms of engagement that the objectives of urban conservation requires would ensure that the results are both satisfying and appropriate for imagining Indian cities.

The way forward

The proposition that I am propounding is not unrealistic. It is possible to implement the objectives of creating better and more satisfying cities as urban conservationists attempt to do, within the framework of the existing Master Plan. The Master Plan of Delhi has the provision to prepare Local Area Plans, which so far, have never been undertaken. The concept of Local Area Planning (LAP) was introduced for the first time in the Master Plan of Delhi – 2021 (MPD-2021). It envisages an integrated four-tier system of spatial plans to manage the development of the city: Master Plan (MPD), Zonal Development Plan (ZDP), Local Area Plan (LAP) and Layout Plans or project plans. The LAP is thus the third tier disaggregation of MPD-2021 and focuses on the needs of legally defined electoral Wards of the city. It is to be prepared through a participatory process to provide a mapped framework for the development or the redevelopment of each of the 272 wards of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). Each ward has an average population of 50,000 and is represented by an elected Councillor. Thus the preparation of the LAPs is a mechanism to engage the aspirations of citizens and the objectives of the Master Plan in a manner that would pragmatically fulfil the democratic ideals of urban planning.

The MCD is among the largest municipal bodies in the world covering area of 1,397 square kilometres, providing civic services to a population of over 16 million. In 2011, the MCD was trifurcated for more effective governance. The trifurcation of MCD along with the implementation of LAPs were expected to bring civic governance closer to the people, thus making urban planning and management processes more inclusive.

How do these laudable objective translate on the ground? For the last over five decades of “planned” growth of Delhi the process has been mediated almost exclusively by the MPD, which came into force in 1962. It was drafted by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and derives its mandate from the Delhi Development Act of 1957. The MPD is therefore a legal document which defines the proposed uses of urban land to manage the growth of the city for a time frame of 20 years; its perspective period has been extended twice and is currently valid up to 2021. The achievements and failures of MPD over the last fifty years of its existence should give pause to planners and administrators to comprehensively reassess its original objectives and strategies, but this has not happened.

Changing the MPD from its present form is difficult because it is a legal document. Its legal status has constrained the hands, and imagination, of reformers. Nevertheless, when it was thought to be necessary, several hundred site specific modifications to the MPD have been made. Often these have been contested in the Courts. In this manner one has witnessed the increasing role of the Judiciary in the development of the city. From this perspective the introduction of inclusive planning practises in the city can be seen as a positive attempt to wrest the initiative to mediate urban matters back by the citizen and the planning profession.  

Hindsight explains why the MPD was bound to fail. Scholars have pointed out that urban development based on physical and economic planning cannot but be lopsided because the social, cultural and political process are inextricably linked with economic and physical variables. It is unrealistic to expect that an abstract physical plan prescribing in legal terms the land uses for twenty years could succeed under conditions of massive social and economic transformation that the city – and the country – has experienced. Therefore, it is not surprising that much of Delhi has developed outside the framework of the MPD.

I draw attention to these developments at the outset because the LAP exercise has had to contend with the problem of the failures of MPD as one of its major objectives. These include for example, dealing with the unauthorized colonies of the poor and the rich, the misuse of residential land by commercial and industrial developments, etc., on the one hand, and on the other, the need for some fine-grain adjustments to the grossly defined land uses in the MPD and ZDP to improve the quality of life in areas which had developed in accordance to the MPD, such as for example, to address the consequences of the growth in the use of private motor vehicles and the introduction of mass rapid transit corridors through the city. This strategy is particularly relevant to manage historic parts of the city.

The city of Delhi as it has emerged after fifty years of planned development is characterised not only by rampant ‘illegal’ developments, but also by the urgent need to redevelop historic and aging precincts that were built legally. Introducing inclusive planning practices at this stage therefore demands of the citizen an understanding of a complex array of urban issues, many which even the planners have not been able to deal with so far. This timely exercise will have to take into account the ground realities at a disaggregated level in order to formulate blue prints for the future of the city. It will introduce an important corrective mechanism to planning orthodoxy.

Like the MPD and the ZDP, the LAP will also be a legal document. It will be a public statement of planning policies at the Ward level presented in a manner that urban residents of that area can understand.  They will now have to take cognizance of planning policies prescribed in the MPD and ZDP before the bulldozers or the police arrive to teach them that lesson. For example, few are aware of the almost draconian provisions of The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act of 2010 (AMASR Act–2010), which will severely restrict the enjoyment of property rights within the Prohibited and Regulated zones around protected monuments; there are 174 of them in Delhi. When local residents are made aware of these facts, they are naturally aghast. In my view their voices in opposition could provide the ground swell to force law makers to recast the AMASR Act–2010 in more appropriate ways that would respect both the imperatives of conserving historic monuments and also contribute to the welfare of people living in its vicinity. If this were to happen, it would be in keeping with the true spirit of inclusive planning.

But encouraging this spirit is not always at the core of inclusive practices in Delhi. Ideally the LAP should be prepared in consultation with the local community to set out micro-strategies for the proper planning and sustainable development – and redevelopment — of the Ward. It should offer a more pragmatic understanding of the city and the needs of its residents. It should also provide fresh ideas on what new developments are needed, how they can be achieved, where public and private resource inputs are required, and some of the rules and regulations that will guide development in the Ward. In reality, however, the practice does not meet the ideal benchmarks. There are several pre-conditions included in the LAP exercise which will leave little scope for meaningful changes to status quo. For example, one of the primary objectives in drafting the LAP is to ensure that the provisions of the MPD and ZDP are adhered to – after all, it is the third level disaggregation of the MPD.

What emerges from this brief overview of the LAP is that the exercise is burdened ab initio by the need to introduce corrective measures, whether in mitigating the variations from the legal land use, or remedying deficiencies as prescribed in MPD. While inclusive planning generally implies a bottom-up planning process, in Delhi it is expected to ensure that the products of the top-down prescriptions, the MPD and ZDP, are duly implemented and legitimised, albeit by taking into account – to the extent possible – the local resident’s views.

In this manner, it is expected that the LAP should be compatible with both regional and national guidance documents such as the National Housing policy, Master Plan and the Regional Planning Guidelines, or for that matter, the AMASR Act-2010. However, it must also respond to opportunities and challenges presented by the changing economic climate and promote continued economic and social development. That is a tall order but the fact is that the guidelines for undertaking such a process of planning are delineated in the existing MPD document. Only the will to implement it is required.

Re-orienting the master plan of Delhi

The Delhi Development Authority is currently engaged in drafting MPD 2041. In the past – the drafting of MPD-2001 and MPD-2021, the objective was largely governed by the need to extend the strategies delineated in the original MPD-1962 by taking into account the additional migration into the city and planning for further growth of population. These periodic exercises were seen as not drafting new documents but updating the existing one. MPD-2021 urbanised all the land within the Union Territory of Delhi, so today, there is no more land available to the Master Plan by extending the the MPD-1962 strategies. New strategies to cater to the needs of the future of Delhi have to be developed. This exercise, therefore, offers an opportunity to not only mitigate past failures but also re-orient the urban planning process of the city.

Following from what I have discussed above, the MPD—2041 exercise should follow two imperatives. First, the vision that guides its drafting should focus on following urban conservation strategies to meet the challenges of the future. Since the entire Union Territory of Delhi is an urbanised region with a Master Plan, the new urban policy should therefore focus on redeveloping the city. The city now consists of both historic precincts and the legacy of almost sixty years of planned development that is aging: both need to be upgraded to meet contemporary needs. Urban conservation strategies offer the most compelling model for undertaking such a task because its processes are necessarily context-specific.

Unlike the strategy used to redevelop East Kidwai Nagar and Naoroji Nagar it would enable the development agency to take into account the remarkable urban legacy of the city, both historic and contemporary, including built and natural, as the starting point of the redevelopment exercise. It would also take into account an important characteristic of cities that give them social value by respecting the many personal and community narratives that have intertwined to construct its urban legacy. Respecting these various values while redeveloping the neighbourhoods would ensure that that the future city would be a less alienating and more satisfying creation. Thus the vision guiding MPD-2041 should be heritage oriented – by considering all its manifestations – and not an abstract urban planning exercise only predicated on satisfying statistics and economic parameters as it is at present. It will necessarily be a more complex technocratic exercise with which the development agencies should engage in order to make the city “world class”.

If the vision underpinning the process of redevelopment is to conserve the remarkable significance of its historic and contemporary heritage while transforming it to meet the future aspirations of individuals and society, then there is no alternate model to follow. This will mean that in addition to the familiar role of urban planners, transport planners, housing professionals, demographers, and social scientists as in the past, the MPD-2041 needs to also bring on board the critical contributions that can be made by urban conservationists, urban designers and landscape architects to define the fine-grain characteristics of the city. The “grand” vision of MPD-2041 should be constructed from the bottom and not imposed from the top as in the past.

Second, to achieve the vision for planning at the fine-grain level the planning agency has to draft 272 Local Area Plans for each of the electoral Wards of the city at the beginning and not the end of the drafting exercise because the city already exists as a planned urbanised region. The MPD—2041 should therefore be a compilation of all the Local Area Plans and not another large-scale land use plan thus ensuring that it is truly a bottoms-up document.

Experience in drafting LAPs exists. Almost ten years ago, the Municipal Committee of Delhi (MCD) commissioned 30 LAPs of a variety of Wards of the city to understand the issues involved in undertaking the exercise. It was a promising beginning, but there does not seem to be any end in sight, not because the exercises were not completed but because of what I can only define as governance deficit. The authorities, in this case the MCD and the DDA, could not agree between themselves on which agency should take ownership of the LAPs that were prepared and implement its recommendations. Therefore, the LAPs were not approved!

To put it bluntly, what the exercise demonstrated was that as managers of cities, urban planners and administrators in India have never attempted to understand the complexity of Indian urbanism and thereafter put in place appropriate strategies to manage urbanization. The bedrock of spatial organization is the Master Plan of the city. In Delhi it is a legal document based on the provisions of the Delhi Development Act, 1957. This Act is a clone of the British Town Planning Act of 1947, which under the circumstances that prevailed then may have been understandable. But the tragedy is that while the British Act has been amended several times in response to changing circumstances, the Delhi Act remains unchanged even as our society has experienced profound transformations. For example, even the Indian Constitution has been amended, most significantly in the promulgation in 1993 of the 72nd and 73rd Amendments that changed the planning process from one that was top-down to one that is bottom-up. But the Delhi Act remains unchanged. This enables the MPD to be used as a stick by the judiciary to punish those who have had to take matters into their hands to meet their need because the MPD did not cater to them.

What I have highlighted in this essay is that the experience, knowledge and even administrative mechanisms exist to make Delhi a better city, but the political will does not. The drafting of MPD-2041 offers an opportunity to correct that deficit in governance.

The author is an architect, urban planner and conservationist, former Director TVB School of Habitat Studies and Convenor INTACH Delhi Chapter A G Krishna Menon, has authored the INTACH Charter for the Conservation of Unprotected Architectural Heritage and Sites in India and has steered the proposal for making Delhi a Heritage City.

Previous posts in this series:

Restoring Delhi’s Central Ridge:  Pradip Krishen

Basti basna khel nahin: Narayani Gupta

 

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