Regularizing colonies triggers densification, but may not mean better amenities or quality of life- Aug 30, 2012
Posted by ramblinginthecity
When day before yesterday’s newspapers screamed out the regularization of 917 unauthorized colonies in Delhi, I was not surprised. With the assembly elections coming up early in 2013, barely months away, such a populistic measure was entirely expected from Sheila Dixit in the waning days of her long, long stint as the captain of affairs in the country’s capital.
For those of us who have worked on projects related to low-income housing in Delhi, the 2013 assembly elections have been a much-awaited milestone. People in the know have assured us that all pending decisions on projects will get pushed through (regardless of merit perhaps!) as the elections near.
For those wondering, regularizations confers legal status on settlements that came up illegally on land zoned for some other use on the Master Plan. Typically, agricultural land on the fringes of the city is plotted and developed into low-income housing by land owners and other entrepreneurs. Immigrants come in and build homes here in the absence of legal, affordable housing in the city. They survive on scrounged resources, barely any basic amenities initially, till eventually even these come, haltingly, illegally to these settlements. Meanwhile, the legally approved city grows in around them. Inevitably, granting these settlements legal status is the only sensible option.
Granting legal status also means governments are obliged to now provide the basic amenities, which is a tall order. Sure enough, the following day, the newspapers carried pieces criticizing the inability of the government to provide electricity, water and sewage connections for the colonies it has regularized.
However, a legal status is a clean chit for densification and redevelopment in these colonies. Even before the amenities come in, homes will be bought and sold, new floors added and home prices will shoot through the roof! Such is the demand for real estate in Delhi!
This endless cycle of illegal to legal has been going on in this city for decades. Isn’t it high time Delhi took a realistic look at its future development, needs and planned for the inevitable growth in a better manner? We must remember that neither land, nor other vital resources like water are infinitely available. A better plan to grow is a must, or else the resources will run out and there will be blood on the streets.