This week the government took two important decisions that could go a long way in easing the lives of those living in the National Capital — offering them relief from the strenuous drill of navigating through traffic congestion and pollution caused by trucks that pass via Delhi — while drawing up a blueprint to bring their workplace closer home.
On Thursday, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs finally gave its nod to the decade-old proposal of constructing 135 km long, six-lane Eastern Peripheral Expressway — a peripheral road around Delhi. The decision, which is expected to bring down traffic congestion and pollution in the city, comes two days after the Ministry of Urban Development approved the Transit Oriented Development Policy for Delhi that paves the way for vertical growth in the city around the mass rapid transit system such as the Metro rail and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
Transit oriented development (TOD) aims at reducing the requirement of movement of people from one place to the other by building residential, office and commercial complex within walking distance of each other as the development generally happens in a perimeter of 500-800 metres on either side of the transit station.
While the government has already stressed upon smart city development and developing infrastructure under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), TOD is a development that focusses on proximity and relies on high-frequency transit. It typically features a mix use of land and promotes not only transit but also safe walking and biking network.
“In a TOD, all service requirements and facilities are developed in such a way that the need of movement is reduced in turn reducing the use of private cars. This will bring down the additional burden on infrastructure,” said Mangu Singh, MD, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.
The broad plan
Aiming to promote walk-to-work by bringing the entire ecosystem within walkable distance, the policy speaks of increasing the floor area ratio (FAR) from 250 per cent to 400 per cent for vertical growth in the designated area. FAR is the ratio of floor area of the building to the plot of land on which the building stands. So, if a particular locality has FAR of 1:1 then it means that either a developer can build a one-storey building on the entire piece of land or two-storey building on half of the land or four-storey on a quarter of the land area.
Since 20 per cent of Delhi will come under the potential TOD zone, the increase in FAR will result in vertical growth across those areas. “A significantly higher FAR (Floor Area Ratio) of 400 will enable vertical construction that is required to address shortage of land availability,” said the MoUD policy statement.
While the policy has mandated that a minimum of 30 per cent of the overall FAR has to be used for residential purposes, it has proposed a minimum of 10 per cent each to be used for commercial and community facilities. The remaining 50 per cent FAR would be used as per the land use designated in the zonal plan. “In residential use zone, of the remaining 50 per cent of overall FAR, at least 20 per cent will be for residential use and other uses are permitted up to 30 per cent. Similarly, in commercial use zone, of the remaining 50 per cent of overall FAR, at least 40 per cent will be for commercial use and other uses are permitted up to 10 per cent,” said the statement issued by MoUD.
Development of affordable housing has also received the government’s attention under this scheme and the policy has stated that 45 per cent of the developed land would be reserved for affordable housing.
While the policy for development will be adopted on 500 metres on both sides of the mass rapid transport system, it will not be applicable in Lutyens bungalow zone, civil lines bungalows area, monument regulated zone, zone ‘O’ (around river Yamuna) and low density residential area.
Benefits of TOD
While the eastern peripheral expressway will look to decongest Delhi’s roads and bring down pollution levels, even TOD will bring down the use of cars and other private vehicles, thereby further bringing down the pollution and congestion levels in the city and on the roads.
New developments will also bring additional tax revenues and additional fare revenue to transit systems, allowing them to provide better service. Other than this, it will also provide joint development opportunities to private sector real estate developers that are undergoing stress.
Urban planning experts are keenly awaiting the final plan. While the policy statement issued by MoUD said that DDA will notify the regulations containing details for operationalisation of TOD policy, experts say that the government should involve town planners, bureaucrats and authorities and ensure that they work in synergy. Though the policy has been welcomed by most, many are raising questions on the implementation ability in a brownfield project. Experts point that it will be a tedious task for planners, authorities and the government to see it through in a city like Delhi which is congested and will need a significant beef-up of infrastructure.
“While you are looking to increase the FAR and looking to grow vertically and bring more people in a particular zone to live and work, the key requirement and challenge would be to build the adequate infrastructure. Power, sewer lines, road and other basic requirements have to be met and all urban local bodies and municipalities will have to work together,” said PSN Rao, chairman, Delhi Urban Art Commission, adding that fund availability with municipal bodies is another concern.
There are others who agree to this and say that while the concept is easy to implement for a greenfield project, it would be tricky for a brownfield project. “An FAR of 4 means you are calling more households to stay in the area but then it is important to think about the support infrastructure. I think that the challenges need to be thought through and holistically integrated with the overall city plan,” said Samantak Das, chief economist & national director, research, Knight Frank India.
There are also concerns being raised over increase of burden over the mass transit system such as on the metro rail in a particular area due to more people moving into one particular place because of the vertical growth.
“In that case the answer could be increase in frequency of metro rails because they can’t increase the number of coaches beyond eight,” said Rao. However, DMRC’s Singh said that, “TOD will reduce the requirement to travel and hence the burden would not rise.”