While inaugurating a local facility in Delhi last week, Union Minister of Urban Development Kamal Nath pronounced that the Master Plan for Delhi (MPD) 2021 is largely irrelevant. Referring to the massive irregularities on the ground, he stated that the MDP needs significant revision.
The Minister needs to be commended for his forthrightness on an output of his own Ministry, via the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). DDA is in the enviable position of having the largest pool of qualified planners—around 400—available to any urban planning authority in the country. So if the Minister suggests that the plan is irrelevant on the ground, and the usual challenge of technical capacity doesn’t apply, how did the plan go wrong?
There are two assessments that can be made of the MPD 2021. The first is a technical one, from a planners’ perspective. Let me begin with this.
The MPD 2021 has been prepared for 1,483 sq km of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD). But the NCTD is itself part of the Central National Capital Region (CNCR) that comprises a much larger 2,000 sq km The CNCR, in turn, is within the regional plan territory for the National Capital Region (NCR), which is 33,500 sq km. So we have 3 nested territories—NCTD, CNCR and NCR, all of which need spatial plans. Each of these plans will serve different needs, given their differing scales, but each will impact the other.
The good news is that the plans have not only been prepared for all 3 geographical footprints, but also synchronised for the same time period of 2021. This is no mean feat—for example, master plans for Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan etc have minimal connection to the larger metropolitan regional plan for Mumbai, and display a cacophonic disarray of timelines.
The tiered planning done in Delhi is entirely the right approach. It allows for integration of the priorities and projects of national, state, regional and local governments. Of course, the success of such an integrated approach can only be evaluated over time when these plans are translated from paper to ground reality.
A second way to assess the MDP 2021 is from the citizens’ perspective. Two things matter most to citizens. First, the big infrastructure of the city that defines its connectivity, livelihood opportunities, leisure activities, and cultural identity; and second, quality of life at the local level—ultimately, people live in