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Rampant redevelopment of Delhi’s residential colonies cannot be the sole mode of housing supply -Apr 26, 2012

I walked through Pamposh Enclave in south Delhi today, a route we take often to get to our office in Greater Kailash Enclave. An astonishing number of private homes in this quiet, sleepy residential colony are being torn down to be replaced by larger, higher, swankier builder floors (commonly used term for the conversion of a single family home into a set of apartments, usually three or six depending on the size of the plot).
Something fundamental is changing in these localities. Built perhaps in the 70s, Pamposh (which means lotus) was an enclave of migrants from Kashmir. These Kashmiri Brahmins imbued the place with the elegance and charm of their community, which largely comprises highly educated people, many of them doctors. The edges of the colony abut major roads and have already seen commercial development in the last decade, but of late the redevelopment mania has reached its innermost lanes. Two major changes are immediately seen. The increasing density achieved by replacing one or two families with a minimum of three brings more traffic and poses a greater load on infrastructure. The increase in volume and height dwarves the trees and changes the experience of walking and living here. The buildings bear down on you now, whereas they appeared receded before.
The other thing hard to miss is the new aesthetic that uses wood, glass and steel as its vocabulary. As blind an aping of modern architecture as we see in the pseudo Greek and pseudo Gothic elements in homes around the city.
You see a seemingly more professional approach to construction (cordoned off sites with large logos of construction companies and developers) co-exist with sites that follow the most primitive practices (mixing cement haphazardly in small basins, slathering plaster willy nilly, etc).
It is alarming that a city as large as Delhi has this type of redevelopment as the only type of housing supply to its middle and high income groups. A much scaled down and poor quality form of the same accommodates Delhi’s swelling numbers of low income residents in urban villages and unauthorised colonies! And then there is the mushrooming of satellite towns (Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad) that are growing so fast they are unsustainable and barely liveable!
This city cannot go on like this. Urban land that exists within city limits desperately needs to be freed ( through densification, reasoning, etc) to allow for a more sensible housing supply scenario. The government needs to think this through and develop a vision for Delhi that takes in the needs and desires of its citizens. They say Delhi belongs to those with a heart (Dilli dilwaalon ki) and our hearts do not deserve to be broken!

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