The city needs a clear articulation of a meaningful planning process


Our previous article, “In Delhi 2041 Master Plan, A Chronicle of Foretold Chaos” was kindly received. This encourages us to set out our vision of how the planning and implementation process should be conducted.


First, we need a statement of values ​​that underpin all future work on the master plan. This is a declaration of intent in general terms. But it’s important to avoid value statements that no one can disagree with. They all point in one direction: towards the sky. They’re not taking us anywhere. We need more practical horizontal markers that point in one direction or another, to be preferred over all the others. The first, and most fundamental, characteristic is that the values ​​and objectives that flow from them can be disputed. There are alternatives to which the stated values ​​and goals have been preferred.

We could say, for example, that we want a more egalitarian society with equal access to housing for all. Sizes will vary of course, but housing will be made available to all income groups in proportion to each income group’s share in the total population, with perhaps a larger share for lower income groups to compensate. the shortcomings of the past. Likewise, there will be equal access to shared facilities (such as water, sewage disposal, schools, parks, hospitals) across income groups. It is something that could attract secret or open opposition. What is important is that in this declaration of values ​​there is a clear expression of the privileged directions.


These can be short term or long term. But in any case, they must align with the framework of values ​​that governs all subsequent work. Here are illustrative examples:

Objective 1: Overhaul of the town planning and implementation process at both city and district level, ensuring that the desired goals and objectives have the force of law.

Objective 2: Provide affordable housing in a variety of formats to all income groups evenly distributed across the city.

Objective 3: Ensure the adequacy of all basic amenities for families of all income groups: water supply, sanitation, electricity, garbage removal; and within walking distance (400m) access to common amenities including schools, parks, sports facilities, medical facilities and shops for daily necessities.

Objective 4: Improve the health of all citizens, anticipating the impact of climate change while working to minimize this impact.

Objective 5: Establish systematic monitoring, evaluation, data publication and feedback loop within the ministry for integrated and inclusive planning.


The second characteristic of meaningful goals is that progress can be measure. For each of the goals suggested above, it is possible to set up a measure of where we are now to compare with where we are later.


These convert the desired goals into specific and measurable targets for action. The details of the units of measure as well as the agencies that will carry out the follow-up will be specified for each objective.

Examples of objectives:

Objective 1 (a): Prepare within one year a draft of what the planning and implementation process should be. This project is expected to clarify how local level planning will be carried out by the Delhi government and higher level planning will be carried out by the Delhi Development Authority. The building blocks of upper and lower level planning are:

(These need to be worked out, as the draft master plan for Delhi 2041, in accordance with the Delhi Development Law, indicates two levels of planning – city and zone. Zonal areas in the case of Delhi are still too large to be classified as decentralized planning Local Land use planning as indicated in the MPD 2021 and the guidelines for formulating and implementing urban and regional development plans requires integration into the law on the development of Delhi to empower the various municipal companies to implement local projects at the neighborhood or neighborhood level.

The law must be amended to adopt a system of collaborative planning similar to that of London. Local area plans should be reintroduced and master plan notification should be done at all three levels simultaneously – city, area and local area or neighborhood. This would ensure contextual regulations instead of generalized regulations and have a greater likelihood of successful implementation.)

The project should cover sources of funding and responsibility for implementation.

Objective 3 (a): To provide social housing in each district of the city, implement within two years, on a pilot basis, five community land reserve projects, similar to forest reserves or wildlife reserves, where land is withdrawn from the market and set aside to provide social housing forever. The appreciation of the land value returns to the community land reserves and cannot be monetized by the occupants.

Objective 3 (b): Set annual objectives to gradually increase the projected number of equipment per inhabitant at the level of the local area to be included according to demand and needs. The integration of equipment into active modes or public transport is an essential parameter.

Objective 4 (a): Air quality measured in terms of airborne particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter; PM 2.5. It will be reduced at the rate of 10% of the existing level per year.

Objective 5 (a): The plan will assign responsibilities for implementing and monitoring each of these goals to specific agencies, which will report every six months on progress and proposed additional actions. The report will be part of a feedback loop involving all three planning levels. Monitoring should start at the local planning level, which is a realistic, tangible and manageable task. The whole process must be transparent and digitized.

We are not suggesting that the foregoing alternative goals and objectives are necessarily what should be adopted. They are only indicative of how they should be framed.

We appreciate the effort that went into developing the draft 2041 master plan. As proclaimed by the National Institute of Urban Affairs, it was a colossal task and took them four years and 200 experts and citizens to analyze and compile the field survey. And for the first time since MPD 1962, such studies have been placed in the public domain.

However, there is a need to be more ready to share data (especially land use data), as well as more substantial engagement with the public. An important suggestion is that instead of developing a master plan in detail before revealing it to the public, it would be helpful if the preparatory work as well as subsequent work could be shared with the public step by step to receive responses while Work is underway.

Better still would be that the Local Development Plans inform the Master Plan from the start to meet the needs of the population. This engagement should ideally be an ongoing process extending to the annual review of the master plan even after its notification. Engaging with the public after the work is done, and only insignificant changes are possible, makes public participation a sham.

The introduction in the Draft 2041 Master Plan rightly states: “Delhi has always been the showcase city in India, inspiring policies and projects in towns and cities across the country…” This is where an additional responsibility on the shoulders of the Delhi Development Authority to create a model that other Indian cities could follow.

Delhi is one of the oldest and largest urban agglomerations in the world (it will soon overtake Tokyo) and requires a clear articulation of a meaningful urban planning and design process that is worth emulating.

Shirish B Patel was the first Planning and Works Manager for Navi Mumbai.

Jasmine Saluja and Oormi Kapadia are both architects and urban planners and recipients of the first prize of the international design competition “Reinventing Dharavi” held in Mumbai in 2014.


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