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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Urban village in North Delhi stuck in time warp: ‘No amenities, planning’

Planning for such urban villages is largely absent from the Delhi Master Plan 2041, which is a blueprint of the city that the next generation will inhabit.

Written by Ashna Butani | New Delhi |
Updated: August 2, 2021 10:07:50 am
Devinder Singh’s flooded fields on Wednesday.

Over the years, Devinder Singh (65) has seen the condition of his village, Nangal Thakran, deteriorate. His memories of lush green fields are a sharp contrast from what he sees in front of him today: cramped residential spaces, no proper drainage system, no basic amenities and lack of irrigation facilities. He attributes this to the fact the government has put little thought into the planning of urban villages.

Planning for such urban villages is largely absent from the Delhi Master Plan 2041, which is a blueprint of the city that the next generation will inhabit.

Located in North Delhi, Nangal Thakran is declared an urban village but it’s roots are still in farming. The village is spread across 1,230 acres and comprises mostly huge farmlands and a small residential area known as the ‘lal dora’.

Farmers used to cultivate sugarcane and cotton earlier. However, over time, they said they stopped getting regular flow of water from the tubewell, and, hence, have to rely on sewerage water. Devinder said, “Now we can only grow rice, but the quality is so bad that we cannot consume it.”

The ‘lal dora’ is a clearly defined part of the village which can be used for residential purposes. Devinder said, “It had been defined by authorities years ago. Back then, it made sense. But with time, the population grew so we were forced to construct small homes and leave very narrow lanes for movement.”

The lanes have little space for cars to enter and there is no mode of public transport available. The closest dispensary is 8 km away and there are no shops nearby.

Stuck somewhere in between rural and urban, the residents have little to do in the area in the evenings. They said that there are no spaces for their children to engage in sports or recreation.

“We want the government to include a clearly defined ‘Village Development Plan’ in the Master Plan 2041. As every village has different needs, it would be best to ask villagers what their priorities are,” said Paras Tyagi, co-founder of Centre for Youth Culture Law & Environment.

He said the land use pattern has changed for many villages. Hence, some turned into industrial areas, while others have bigger residential spaces.

In his suggestions, he writes, “The Village Development Plan which was part of MPD 2021 that was not completed, is now excluded from the Master Plan of Delhi, 2041; it shows the serious fault lines throughout the planning exercise, giving priority to the city and how villages have been ignored. The DDA itself has written that Delhi consists of 367 villages, most of which have been declared as urban, when the city plan has been in preparation since 1962. Requesting DDA to clarify on what basis the villages are left without planning.”

A senior DDA official, on condition of anonymity, said: “The land pooling policy was notified in 2018 and deals with the problem of unplanned housing as it helps people pool small pieces of land to create a bigger parcel, where planned development can happen. There have been some glitches in the implementation and it is stuck in a sort of a limbo, but it should soon get a push. We have also extended the duration for public consultation on the draft MPD so that concerns can be raised and addressed.”

Regarding urban villages, the MPD 2041 states, “Urban Villages have emerged as islands of unplanned growth in the city. They have similar issues to UCs [unauthorised colonies] and have emerged as major hubs of rental housing. Many of the 53 urban villages are also of heritage importance and will need a mix of regeneration and conservation strategies. Specific regulations for development and regeneration of urban villages shall be formulated by DDA within 2 years of notification of this plan.”

However, Paras said pressing issues are not being addressed in the plan. The issue of small residential areas is common to around 175 villages.

Mamraj Thakran (53), a retired Army personnel, who has now returned to his roots in farming, said, “I have five kids. We did not want them to go into farming, so they have pursued their studies from all over the NCR as there are no good colleges nearby.” He added farming is no longer lucrative in the village. He said that since there is very little land they can use, they cannot even branch out into other fields such as business and industry.

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