Rohini – The ‘unsmart’ sub-city of Delhi

The growth of internet heralded a lot of changes in the mid 90s, including opening up the possibilities of ‘smart cities’. Many countries adopted it for their urban planning, especially in the capitals.

Delhi, the capital of India didn’t trigger any such pathbreaking ideas into the Masterplan 2021.

‘Smart cities’ mean different things to different countries. While the West might talk of sustainability, security, data driven approach, etc., whereas the thrust in the Indian context should’ve been sanitation, infrastructure, supply of modern work and living spaces and quality governance.

The Indian smart city mission was launched in 2015 and to a large extent, it has remained on paper as far as Delhi is concerned. The vision was to achieve a high degree of collaboration between the stakeholders, MPD2021 got mired in the politics and caused billions of dollar worth losses to the investors and landowners.

Forget about greenfield developments in the 5 new zones of Delhi, sub cities like Rohini were allowed to mushroom as an aggregation of residential plots converted to unauthorized commercial streets. Though the prices have increased, it no longer affords wide open streets and quality of life.

Rohini had all the plus points to evolve as a planned sub city; the first metro line, connected by motorable roads to other CBD areas, social and physical infra and products at all price points. Not to mention social harmony and homogeneity of occupants.

During the same reckoning period, both DDA & private developers of Gurgaon had access to large land tracts. Private developers in Gurugram developed multiple commercial hubs like Cyber City, Golf course road, Extension, Sohna road, etc., delivering more than a few million sq.ft.

It isn’t surprising that Gurugram is home to more than 250 of Fortune 500 companies. The differentiator was ‘Vision’; which Delhi lacked.

Not all is lost. Delhi need not be a lifelong laggard. It can surge ahead by offering prime well-connected properties to the Private sector to develop modern commercial hubs. Not that DDA does not have access to large land parcels in Delhi or that there isn’t enough Private sector Institutional interest. All that Delhi Masterplan & DDA lack is predictability and single window clearance. Rohini is a clear example of this.

On the one hand, DDA might be sitting on more than 500 Ha of zoned commercial land parcels worth a couple of billion dollars, on the other hand there are scores of new unauthorized colonies mushrooming around business hubs for want of an integrated facility. Why can’t these land parcels be developed by the private sector on the lines of Global city, Whitefield, BKC or even Cyber hub? Why doesn’t DDA sell these land parcels to be developed as modern integrated commercial hubs while DDA plays the role of a facilitator?

There is a clear business opportunity too. DDA land parcels in Rohini are bang in the middle of a developed city, whereas new supply of large developable land in NCR are at least 50 k.m. away from Lutyens Delhi. Gurugram offers land near Manesar and  Sohna, YEIDA in Greater Noida, Sonepat has no such large development, Faridabad is re-developing older industrial districts, etc.

Here is Rohini which doesn’t need greenfield development. Even the metro corridor is scheduled to be extended from Rithala to Narela-Bawana. That would cut across these prospective business districts. Importantly, Rohini integrated development can create social infrastructure simultaneously. To support the prospective movement of large corporates to this area, Grade A housing, schools, hospitals, shopping and recreation, etc., can be executed while the commercial campuses evolve.

Don’t forget, large swathes of private development of premium development can take place across the UER-2, under zone N. 10 villages under green belt GDA policy are a mere 5-7 k.m. away. Additionally, DSIIDC has more than 1100 acres of land in the vicinity in Kanjhawla & Ranikhera, which also are reserved for development of ‘Knowledge based Industrial Parks’.

This time next year, UER-2 would be operational. Gurgaon would be a mere 35 minutes’ drive from Rohini, airport about 25-30 mins. Multiple cabs and private transport can save millions of trips a year driving across Delhi to reach Gurugram.

Not to mention the millions of dollar addition to the states GDP as well as to the dipping coffers of DDA. That’s prudent business which we hope DDA opts for.

As the old adage says, “You can actually take the business house to the employee instead of ferrying them long distance to the work-place.”

Ramesh Menon
Ramesh Menon
Writer is an Urbanisation and Land Expert (Delhi Master Plan & Land Pooling)

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