Low-income neighbourhoods of Delhi are more inaccessible; but higher income, planned areas also fall short of benchmarks
Unplanned, low-income areas in Delhi have very limited access to affordable and efficient public transport services. Planned and richer areas are comparatively better connected, but are still not up to the mark. If all settlements of Delhi — planned and unplanned — are not equally well connected with public transport services and are not made accessible, the capital will fail to implement fully its sustainable, low-emission forms of travel (like walking, cycling or public transport).
This is the conclusion of a new report, How accessible are low income settlements: The case of Delhi, released August 3, 2021 by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
The draft Delhi Master Plan 2041 (MPD 2041) estimated the city’s population at 27-30 million by 2041; 50 per cent of this increase will happen due to migration. By then, Delhi would generate 46.2 million motorised trips daily.
“If such a massive load of daily motorised travel trips are not shifted to public transport to achieve the MPD 2041 target of modal split of 80:20 in favour of public and shared transport, Delhi will remain locked in pollution and carbon trap,” says CSE Executive Director Anumita Roychowdhury.
“This requires immediate improvement in neighbourhood-scale accessibility to bus and metro services and minimisation of interchanges. The expectation of MPD 2041 that 50 per cent of Delhi’s population will be within the influence zone of mass transit by 2041 and mixed-use development will encourage shift towards public transport, can be fulfilled only if neighbourhood-level design and infrastructure improve for safe and efficient access,” she added.
This CSE study is a ground-level assessment of infrastructure for accessibility in 16 settlements in the southern part of Delhi that include neighbourhoods of varying economic status. This assessment has a special focus on the vulnerable urban poor. The settlements have been selected based on the Master Plan of Delhi 2021 (MPD21) classification of settlements that are technically classified as “planned” and “unplanned”.
These diverse settlements include unauthorised colonies that have been subsequently regularised such as Tughlakabad Extension, Tigri Extension, Govindpuri, Kalkaji, Khanpur, Pooth Kalan and Khirki Extension; resettlement colonies like Garhi and Zamrudpur in East of Kailash; and slum clusters like Jawaharlal Nehru Camp in Kalkaji.
There are also villages that have become part of the urban system like Shahpur Jat and Tughlakabad village. This assessment also includes planned settlements with neigbourhoods of higher income groups including East of Kailash, Kailash Colony, Greater Kailash and Chittaranjan Park.
While it is challenging to quantify the differences in absolute terms, indicators have been derived from national policies, guidelines, service-level benchmarks, the Ease of Living Index of the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), and a few global indexes related to liveability and accessibility — the aim was to broadly assess the qualitative differences between settlements.
This is a rapid diagnostic study of equity of access, ease and affordability of movement and what determines access in different settlements.
“These indicators bring out the relative differences in local conditions related to transport, mobility patterns and connectivity, status of infrastructure and services, accessibility, and the increase in interchanges due to poor connectivity that has a bearing on journey costs,” said Anannya Das, deputy programme manager with the sustainable mobility programme at CSE.
Key findings of the study
Quite predictably, the planned settlements and higher income neighbourhoods perform better on most criteria compared to unplanned settlements dominated by the poor. But even planned colonies fall short of the benchmark for accessibility as provided in guidelines and standards and are deficient in public transport-oriented design. This is inciting dependence on personal vehicles in these neighbourhoods.
Unplanned colonies, on the other hand, are hugely burdened with legacy problems as they have grown incrementally and without any planning support. They are already very densely built with hugely constrained infrastructure. There is barely any space left to manoeuvre as all vacant and open spaces have ceased to exist.
The indicative and relative benchmarking bring out the variance as follows:
A different policy approach for retrofitting change to improve access and services will be needed in settlements. Even though several policies have emerged that have bearing on equitable urban planning including national habitat standards, transit-oriented development policy, service-level benchmarks at the central level and Delhi Master Plan integrating several sustainability criteria, the framework for implementation is weak. This requires policy focus on local area improvement to make accessibility across settlements — both unplanned and unplanned — more efficient and affordable.
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