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

    • I calculated Vipul Greens, where I live, has 128 persons per acre, assuming each flat has 4 people and all apartments are occupied! Its probably less dense than many of the other complexes in Gurgaon, that have say 4-6 apartments per floor (to a single core), whereas ours has only 2…hope that helps

  1. 32 unit per acre??? that is way low. I live in 4 story fairly airy building at 80 units per acre. How many stories is your building? It seems that we’re wasting way too much space in with all the open space requirements and setbacks. Thanks!

    • like i said. ours is relatively low density compared to other apartments…but the challenge is in the infrastructure planning, not just within the complex but also neighborhood level and city level…also remember Gurgaon is very suburban in intent. Delhi, if redeveloped, would get much denser highrise I think!

  2. I can understand Mukta’s vexation about the disorderly cart before horse growth of Gurgaon from an architect and town planner’s point of view. To my mind, the problem lies deeper in not having taken into account the needs of the three broad econonomic groups comprising the town’s population at present and in the foreseeable future. The low income group have been all but forgotten when planning infrastructural entities like housing, roads, shopping centres, parking lots(not giving bicycles their space, for instance!). Unlike the fine cities of Chandigarh and its neighboring Panchkula and Mohali, Jamshedpur in Jharkhand and also Bhubaneshwar in Odisha, the National Capital Regional cities including Gurgaon convey the impression of development being rushed and hastily thrust upon them. Development of any kind, to be properly savoured, must occur in leisurely spells of tasting, digesting and then asking for more!

    • I agree totally and thanks a ton for reading my blog and commenting!
      The problem is this. The biggest opportunist is the government, who wants to play a game of rapid development and yet block off some land for future development, which is otherwise known as speculation! The fun part is they do this almost unwittingly…..and citizens pay the price, literally in terms of rising costs of housing and office space and indirectly in terms of an unsafe, unhealthy lifestyle caused by haphazard development (no traffic lights, no pavements, etc). Savoring and tasting are luxuries we had back in the days when the cities you mentioned were planned, before the rest of the world was looking at India to save their futures!
      But we must not lose hope and push for planned urbanization!

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