Big plans to tackle chaos on Delhi roads
The ongoing construction of eight high-rises that will have over 30,000 apartments for Central government employees will help tackle the city's spiralling housing crisis. But the South Delhi projects will further clog Ring Road and connecting arterial stretches with an additionally heavy traffic load once people start moving into these houses.
The redevelopment plan, approved by the Centre three years ago, will increase the number of flats from the existing 12,970 to 25,667 in seven General Pool Residential Accommodation (GPRA) neighbourhoods being constructed by the National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited (NBCC) and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD).
NBCC has already constructed 4,840 flats in East Kidwai Nagar near South Extension-I where people have started moving in. Housing units coming up as part of an ambitious Rs 9000-crore redevelopment plan of the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) will further add to the chaos.
These projects have faced criticism for allegedly being planned without adequate impact assessments on traffic, water and environment.
The matter has even reached court. Central government agencies have already kept 75-80,000 parking slots for the residents of these colonies. About 1.3 lakh vehicles pass through AIIMS Crossing every day. Another 3.3 lakh vehicles ply between Bhikaji Cama Place and Lajpat Nagar flyovers every day.
"Ring Road is already clogged. It used to be busy at peak hours. Now every hour is a peak hour. The new colonies coming up will further aggravate the traffic load. I wonder why the government did not plan for solutions before the constructions started," said cell phone company employee Rajesh Mishra, who commutes between Noida and Delhi for work every day
A report, submitted to the Delhi High Court by IIT Delhi professor Geetam Tiwari says the increased traffic load caused by the East Kidwai Nagar project could result in congestion on Ring Road and Aurobindo Road.
Last year, the Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning & Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC) asked the Delhi government's Public Works Department (PWD) to suggest ways to decongest Ring Road. All transport projects in Delhi by any agency having road engineering implication require clearance from UTTIPEC set up by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
PWD has come up with a threepoint contingency plan to find ways to ease traffic jams set to be triggered once the housing units are occupied. One solution is to construct a 9-km elevated corridor on Ring Road, linking six flyovers from Moti Bagh to Lajpat Nagar where Sriniwaspuri Colony is being built.
The agency has also proposed to construct an elevated corridor running parallel to Ring Road from INA to Delhi airport through Mahipalpur. The third is the extension of Barapullah Phase IV to Dhaula Kuan from INA. This one, officials say, is unlikely to be implemented because of land acquisition hurdles. "The proposal comprising the three options will be studied for feasibil-Delhi govt's mission unclog ity after which they will be finalised," said a PWD official. In May, the Delhi High Court hauled up UTTIPEC for not having a sustainable traffic assessment plan. UTTIPEC then informed the court about the PWD proposals.
Professor Sewa Ram of the School of Planning and Architecture said not much could be done to properly manage increased traffic inflow since the projects are already midway.
"Having elevated roads will only mean connecting two particular areas. But the concern will remain in stretches where traffic merges. Having new road networks will not solve the larger traffic congestion problems," he said.
"World over, traffic impact studies happen before projects start. Unfortunately, we are thinking of a plan when half of the project has been constructed," he said. Anumita Roy Chowdhury, Executive Director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), has concerns too. "We know some areas close to transit lines in the core of the city will see densification. But we need to know if this redevelopment happens in line with Centre's Transit Oriented Development (TOD) policy. While you are densifying, you also need to improve accessibility to public transport systems and also reduce parking requirements in the area so that you can control traffic generation," she said.
"We know that was not followed in East Kidwai Nagar but we do not know if the government is following that in the seven other colonies," she said.
THE GPRA PLAN
In July 2016, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the redevelopment of the seven GPRA colonies: Sarojini Nagar, Netaji Nagar, Nauroji Nagar through NBCC and Kasturba Nagar, Thyagraj Nagar, Sriniwaspuri and Mohammadpur through CPWD.
The project will also develop government office accommodation in nearly 2.42 lakh sqm at Netaji Nagar. The total estimated cost of the project is Rs 32,835 crore that includes maintenance and operation costs for 30 years. The project will be completed in five years in a phased manner.
"At present there is a shortage of government accommodation in the National Capital Region. This leads to government officials waiting for eligible housing. Thus, the Ministry of Urban Development has moved a proposal for redevelopment of old dilapidated housing colonies by making optimum utilisation of land resources and using modern construction technology," it has said.