Delhi-based non-profit CSE writes to urban development ministry, evaluating the plan and recommending ways to decongest the capital in a comprehensive manner
Delhi Decongestion Plan is inadequate and does not take into account critical aspects to address the private vehicle-led traffic congestion in the city, according to Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based non-profit. The decongestion plan is a roadmap submitted by the high-powered committee set up by Union Minister of Urban Development Venkaiah Naidu.
In a letter to Shankar Agarwal, secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development, CSE Executive Director Anumita Roychowdhury wrote that while they appreciated the initiative, they had assessed the plan for its potential effectiveness and identified gaps that could compromise the efficacy of the overall plan.
Following are some excerpts from the letter:
- The decongestion plan does not consist of clear targets for shift to public transport in a time-bound manner. It needs to state clearly that it would take steps to not allow any further increase in personal vehicle modal share and achieve the stated objective of the Delhi Master Plan of ensuring that at least 80 per cent of motorised trips are public transport trips by 2020.
- The plan has proposed to implement 650 km of cycle lanes and to retrofit 200 km of roads with walkable footpaths. The overall estimated cost of this initiative is a mere 5.3 per cent of the total cost estimated for the entire decongestion plan, at Rs 41,095 crore. Ensuring that all arterial and sub-arterial roads in Delhi are retrofitted with well-designed and safe non-motorised transport (NMT) infrastructure within two years will require substantial reallocation of funds. The scale of intervention has to match the intended scale of change to make a difference.
- To ensure that walking and cycle lanes do not become mere beautification projects like during the Commonwealth Games, the new plan should map out the proposed network in different zones of Delhi with budgetary allocation to ensure implementation. The plan has given such details only for proposed elevated and tunnel roads, but not the NMT network, or the multimodal connectivity plan.
- The plan for bus transport reforms is inadequate and limited in scale. The cost estimated for conventional bus transport reform is a miniscule 4.8 per cent of the total cost, at only Rs 2,000 crore of Rs 41,095 crore. This is puzzling as the report itself has cited estimates to show that a minimum of Rs 3,709 crore will be needed for the conventional bus sector. While Delhi requires 11,000 buses, the plan has not specified any number of buses to be purchased over the next two years. The city has only around 5,600 buses as of today. The plan also has no mention of service to be achieved in terms of geographical coverage, frequency and reliability of bus service and how passenger service information will be leveraged to improve the overall service delivery.
- The plan has not made any agency responsible for coordination with all concerned departments and overall implementation of multi-modal integration and urban transport fund. Without such framework and accountability, the plan will not move on the ground.
- The plan must reevaluate the need for tunnel and elevated roads after proper network planning and implementation of modal shift measures. Under the JNNURM, as much as 80 per cent of the budget was earmarked for roads and flyovers in Delhi, which has only aggravated congestion in the city. There has to be a serious public debate whether the city can afford to pay Rs 30,000 crore for creating an additional 120 km of roads in bits and pieces in different parts of the city, the paradigm that the report itself acknowledges has not worked anywhere in the world to reduce congestion. We propose that any decision on elevated and tunnel roads be put on hold until public transport systems are fully established and connectivity and network planning are put in place. All road projects should also be calibrated based on road safety and clean air requirements. High speed corridors should be discouraged in a city that witnesses an average of five road accident deaths per day.
- The plan must resolve conflicts between proposals for public transport and road network expansion on the same corridor in favour of public transport.
- The plan has recommended action only on railway connectivity in the NCR region. But it must also include removal of tax and toll barriers to public transport in NCR to enable improved public transport connectivity across borders to reduce interstate traffic volume. This will have to be expedited within a year along with infrastructure development and service augmentation.
- The plan must establish a monitoring and compliance system for enforcement of the Delhi Decongestion Plan in a time-bound manner. It is recommended that a high powered monitoring agency is established to ensure that the plan is improved according to the priorities of sustainable mobility; to carry out periodic review of the progress of implementation; and to hold implementing agencies accountable and liable.
Finally, CSE makes a case for a clear delivery model, the absence of which will result in quick sanctioning of road development plans at the cost of public transport, connectivity, walking and cycling and which will eventually increase congestion and pollution.
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