With 2010 Commonwealth Games in sight, Delhi hopes to turn into a world-class city

first_imgMakeover of Delhi for 2010 Commonwealth GamesIf the ambitious plans currently being finalised reach fruition, Delhi is to undergo a massive and hugely expensive makeover that will come close to finally realising its dream of being a world-class city.However, going by past record – Delhi’s status as the centre of,Makeover of Delhi for 2010 Commonwealth GamesIf the ambitious plans currently being finalised reach fruition, Delhi is to undergo a massive and hugely expensive makeover that will come close to finally realising its dream of being a world-class city.However, going by past record – Delhi’s status as the centre of Indian politics, with control over key areas of development divided between the state Government and the Centre, and the urban chaos that has resulted-these grandiose plans amount to building castles in the air.Yet, for several reasons, this could be the most comprehensive transformation for the capital since Independence.The incentive is powerful: the 2010 Commonwealth Games. As a sports event, the Commonwealth Games rank just below the Olympics. The budget for Delhi 2010 – a mind-boggling Rs 80,000 crore is by far the single biggest injection of funds for the city.Many projects-like the showpiece Metro, among others-are already up and running, or are part of the Delhi 2010 Development Plan. The Games offer a convenient incentive to launch a massive regeneration plan that could, if all goes well, establish the benchmark for urban planning in India.Yet, it will be a Herculean task in terms of mustering political will, co-ordinating between several agencies and overcoming bureaucratic hurdles that have turned an elegant, historic city into one of the most crowded and polluted in the world.Delhi’s record is already dismal: the Yamuna that runs through the city stinks; one out of every three residents lives in slums; public transport is in a shambles and monsoons spell choked drains and potholed roads. Delhi is also notorious for its VIP movement and multiple modes of transport that create havoc on roads.advertisementFinding parking space for vehicles is a nightmare. Summers are synonymous with lengthy power cuts and dry taps. Commercialisation of residential areas, that led to a huge demolition-cum-sealing drive (see box), has symbolised the difference between promises and realityGetting ready for 2010Click here to EnlargeAccording to Plan 2010, however, all this will be history when the Delhi Government waves its magic wand for a Cinderella-like transformation of the city. This time, there is a credible difference. The Games have injected a new sense of unified purpose and commitment that has rarely been seen before, and the massive funding has huge potential to change the city.Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is optimistic. “By 2010, we will turn Delhi into a dream city which is beautiful, clean, green and world-class,” she says. Till now, growth has been mostly accidental. The classy Delhi Metro, a mass rapid transit system, had been in the making for almost five decades and underwent 35 studies before finally taking off in 1998.Whether it is the agonisingly slow Sonia Vihar water project or the privatisation of the Delhi Jal Board, slum rehabilitation, or regularisation of unauthorised colonies, these are tough decisions with huge financial, political and social stakes involved. “Had we been a full-fledged state, things would have moved faster,” admits Dikshit.Even so, there is cause for cautious sanguinity. In terms of development, Delhi is moving faster than any other Indian city. For sceptics, the biggest proof is the rapid rollout of the capital-intensive Metro Rail, which has already earned justifiable praise for outstanding efficiency and service.Also, the pilots of major projects-multi-storey parking complexes, high-capacity bus system, garbage privatisation, expressways- are already underway. That is why there is reason for optimism. Says Stephen Davies, former managing director, Bata, which relocated its headquarters to Gurgaon after 70 years in Kolkata: “Delhi seems to be the only city which is planning big and thinking long-term.”Airport RevampClick here to EnlargeFortunately for Delhi, a convergence of factors may help overcome traditional hurdles this time. The world over, cities like Atlanta, Barcelona and Seoul have used sports events like the Olympics to transform themselves. Beijing is investing a staggering $35 billion in infrastructure in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics.The Asian Games in 1982, though much smaller in scale with a Rs 500-crore budget, had changed Delhi with new sports complexes, residential areas like the Asian Games Village, culture and entertainment hubs such as the Siri Fort complex and much-needed flyovers. With Congress governments at the Centre and locally, the mood in the capital’s power corridors is co-operative rather than confrontational.”The Partition and the Asian Games were two defining events for Delhi. The Commonwealth Games will be the third,” says Amin Ullah Khan, fellow, India Development Foundation, which focuses on urban development issues. He feels that the Games will work as an anchor around which mega – plans in Delhi can be pushed in a time-bound manner.advertisementPerhaps the biggest and most ambitious is the complete overhaul of the public transport system within and around the city, with an estimated investment of over Rs 30,000 crore by 2010. The capital already has the world’s largest CNG fleet with 80,000 vehicles, including 10,000 buses for public transport. Monorails, a high-capacity bus system and environment-friendly electric trolleys will provide the city with an alternative mode of clean, comfortable transportation.With more than 40 flyovers, better roads and well-designed pedestrian walkways in the pipeline, commuting on Delhi roads will be much easier. Moreover, the current parking chaos will be sorted out if plans by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) to build computerised multistorey parking complexes materialise. In Nehru Place, work on a pilot project has already begun.RED FLAGSAD HOC PLANNING: There are several bodies and layers of bureaucracy; so no single body oversees Delhi’s planning and developmentPOWER PAINS: As Delhi is the political hub, populist decisions are more likely in issues such as slum rehabilitation and tariff hikes.POPULATION PRESSURE: Delhi’s population grows by about four lakh annually, mostly due to migration. Plans can go awry.CRASS COMMERCIALISATION: Town planners and experts worry that rampant construction may eventually destroy the historic city.There’s more to the landscape of the 2010 dream city. Entry points to the city-railway stations and airports, including Delhi airport- will be given a major facelift. The recent handover of the airport to a private consortium is already seeing an upgradation of facilities.The railways have joined the fray with a war chest of at least Rs 300 crore. Rundown railway stations in New Delhi, Old Delhi and Nizamuddin will undergo a makeover with clean, modern platforms, food plazas, ATMs, escalators and multi-storey parking complexes.At least four railway terminals are being upgraded to help decongest traffic. Garbage management is being handed over to private companies, with bio-degradable and non-degradable waste being collected separately. The city’s garbage will be reduced by half, says Rakesh Mehta, former MCD commissioner.Dirty public convenience facilities are also getting a makeover as their maintenance is being handed over to private companies, which also get the advertising rights. Private agencies will also maintain subways, roads and parking facilities.The dull DTC buses are already donning vibrant colours. Outdoor advertising with neon lights will be used to give the city’s faade an international and contemporary look, particularly in corporate complexes like Bhikaji Cama Place and Nehru Place. Already, in areas like Khan Market and Janpath, attractive, uniform signeage for shops has been introduced.The NDMC also plans a major facelift of the municipal areas, including the central vista in Connaught Place. “We hope to make the NDMC area world-class and turn it into a major tourist destination,” says Sindhushree Khullar, NDMC Chairman.The Commonwealth Games will also give sports infrastructure a new lease of life. The Delhi Development Authority is planning to build five new sports complexes, two mini-sports arenas and six multi-gyms, along with the upgradation of six existing stadia. The Games Village being set up on the banks of the Yamuna will lead to beautification of the entire area, including the filthy river itself. Lakes and water bodies meant for aquatic sports will add to the new green look the area is slated to get.advertisementDreams for DelhiClick here to EnlargeThe National Capital Region (NCR) is riding piggyback on Delhi in this drive. The eight-lane Delhi-Gurgaon expressway will be completed soon, while a Rs 3,600-crore peripheral expressway on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border and Delhi-Haryana border will reduce the heavy traffic that passes through the capital. Noida and Gurgaon will both be connected by the Metro with a doit-yourself funding model.The Delhi government is also betting big on technology to improve efficiency. GPS and GIS will help in tracking buses while the extensive use of smart cards will make life easier for residents. It helps that Delhi’s ambitious plans are on sound footing. Fiscally, the state is among the few in India with a healthy balance sheet. Its net revenue in 2004-05 was Rs 5,700 crore. Being the capital, it will also get generous funding from the Centre.The MCD is being restructured for better governance. Amid much protest, water tariffs have been rationalised. Water loss in transportation will be brought down from around 40 to 10 per cent in the next three years. Parking rates in select areas have been raised. Says Dikshit: “Some of them are tough decisions politically. But involving people through bhagidari will help.”The buzzword in the government is public-private partnership. While power distribution has been fully privatised, other services will soon follow suit. Corporate sponsorships and advertisement rights are being explored to raise revenues for the maintenance of roads, parks, community centres and parking complexes.Almost 35 per cent of the investment is likely to come from the private sector. “The Government’s role will increase as a regulator and shrink as a service provider,” says R.K. Verma, former chairman, NCR Planning Board.Rs 30,000 crore on public transportRs 4,500 crore on garbage disposalRs 2,200 crore on games infrastructureRs 800-1,000 crore annually on waterBut concerns remain. “The biggest challenge for Delhi is how it responds to people’s growing aspirations,” says Mehta. For a city that swells by more than four lakh people every year, with over 70 per cent of the increase by way of migration, population growth can throw all calculations awry. The city’s population is expected to go up from 14 to 17 million by 2010.Despite the naysayers, there has been a subtle, yet significant, change in Delhi’s character. The city is throwing away its political tantrums and bureaucratic whims and learning to be tech-savvy. “A certain amount of professionalism has come in. And there is a dilution of the babu culture,” says Raman Roy, a BPO industry veteran. The dialogue between the industry and the government is robust, he says.Just how robust it is will be known in a few years. But there is already a discernable buzz around Delhi that reflects its aggressive, go-getting Punjabi culture. The swank malls, the plethora of restaurants, the spending power of its citizens that is attracting global luxury brands and manufacturers alike, are all indications that the capital may finally be ready to take on its biggest challenge- to transform itself into a top-notch city. Delhi 2010 may yet be a dream, but with the new plans, Delhi’s past glory may finally be matched by its future.last_img

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