DDA Master Plan Delhi 2041 – What Changed?

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DDA master plan
Representative Photo

Euphoria gripped the landowners and investors’ community when DDA issued the press release about the approval of the draft Delhi Master Plan 2041 on 28 Feb 2023. Finally, there seems to be a comprehensive document detailing out the vision and enabling policy framework for development of the capital of India.

Those who are keen watchers of Delhi Urbanization over the past 3 decades would heave a sigh of relief; the patchy framework and ill-coordinated efforts amongst the multiple hierarchy of governance in the city over benefitted a few unscrupulous elements. It’s no surprise that the capital of India has > 10,000 unauthorized settlements.

Let’s step back and understand what this whole document is about, it’s relevance and the reason for it being touted as a $100 billion investment opportunity.

  • Post-independence, the first master plan of Delhi was promulgated in 1962. Each master plan is drawn with a 20-year perspective and serves as the guiding document detailing specific areas of development.
  • Master plan 2021 was notified in 2007 (delayed by many years) and it continually underwent changes till 2018. Some changes were even notified / communicated in 2021. Sadly, the plan which was to end in 2021 hadn’t even started.
  • Wise sense prevailed and the current policy makers decided to create a new comprehensive document which detailed out the urbanization of the entire land parcel under NCT of Delhi; all of 1483 sq kms. Delhi would become the only state which would be 100% urbanized.
  • Delhi has different sets of challenges. In no particular order, it is the capital of the country, not bestowed full statehood, multiple hierarchies of governance, multiple interest groups of activists, courts and inept politics and administration. Master plan 2021 was a complete disaster which no single agency accountable for.
  • Since the LG-Delhi is the de facto Chairman of DDA and it does report directly to the Central Govt, the inept handling is a poor reflection of the urban development template for the capital.
  • MPD2041, the guidance document for all developmental activities till 2041, aims to course correct. The firm and brusque handling that I have seen, especially over the past year or so, dispels the notion that the Union Govt. doesn’t have ‘Intent & Ability’. The vision document is an august beginning.

What has changed?

  • To begin with, MPD2041 is a statutory document which provides a more holistic framework for planned development of large land mass. All stakeholders, including Govt. agencies would refer to the same guiding document for the common outcome of ‘planned urbanization.’
  • The policy makers admit the errors of the past and have overhauled the earlier MPD2021 to infuse some fresh thinking into the approach plan. More than cement and steel structures, the guiding document also incorporates the softer elements of urbanization, namely, health, environment, aesthetics, safety, mobility, culture etc.
  • Earlier, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) was the singular agency handling land acquisition, planning, redistribution, design, development, sales and all allied activities. To top it all, DDA also was the regulator.

In spite of the monopoly, it was neither able to meet demand nor make profits. Under this MPD2041, DDA would act as the facilitator and provider of trunk Infrastructure. The private sector would purchase the lands directly from the landowners to develop 05 sub cities and projects.

I have always advocated that the DDA policies of the past have been overtly democratic and  socialistic in approach, without accounting for the change in market dynamics and consumer preferences. DDA never raised the bar; kept applying ‘band-aid on a gunshot’. They just need to look at their peers from other ministries who have upped the benchmark of standards and delivery; be it housing, social and  physical infrastructure, business ecosystem or environment. The current team of officials lead by the Minister-MoHUA, LG-Delhi and VC-DDA have infused the sense of urgency and dynamism into MPD2041.

As the old adage goes, change happens only during the absence of (Delhi) government. That seems to have worked in this case too.

Large scale land development would primarily happen under 3 different policies, briefly detailed here below:

Land Pooling

DDA has published the zonal plans and sector plans of each zone on their website. The onus of aggregation of land, planning, submission and redistribution has been shifted to the landowners. DDA would only play the role of a facilitator. Effectively speaking, landowners would collectively appoint a consultant / consulting agencies and outsource the work. It’s very unlikely that a couple of hundred individuals can unanimously align. The valuation of monetizable land would depend on the depth of understanding and plans. Of course, the yield on investment would be healthy; only if the capital is patient and long term. Land pooling villages, numbering about 95, would evolve as high-density development. These are Greenfield projects.

Green Development Area Policy

Prima facie, this is the big-ticket opportunity for investors as many high yield projects / well-located land parcels are adjoining existing habitation of Delhi & Gurugram. GDA villages, numbering around 47, are the last peripheral village abutting the districts of Haryana. In an endeavour to create Delhi into a hub of ‘clean economies based on high-tech & service-based industries’, the plan envisages the requirement for physical and social infrastructure like IT Parks, R&D hubs, convention and exhibitions, higher education, recreational spaces, etc. Of course, high end living through farmhouses are permitted.

The GDA policy would provide an opportunity to create ‘integrated low density development’. Largely greenfield and brownfield developments would take place in the 70 villages of Delhi, including LDRA villages of South Delhi, which are already habited.

Urban Regeneration

Many areas existing in Delhi are old and require immediate attention; be it retro-fitting of services or redevelopment. The distribution of density isn’t equitable and many areas would have to be re-densified. Also important are the unplanned unauthorized colonies, urban villages and non-conforming industrial and godown clusters which needs to be integrated to the mainstream infrastructure. That’s a gargantuan task in itself.

All of the above need infusion of private sector expertise, capital and management bandwidth, since government and govt. agencies have limitations and that exactly is the opportunity too. Proof of the pudding is in the eating and let’s wait to watch DDA walk their talk!

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