There are two issues raised in the letters by Ms Gita Dewan Verma and Prof. E.F.N.Rebeiro:
Should Prof Rebeiro have accepted the Awards for the Indian Building Congress? and
What is the status of Delhi Secretariat and Garden of 5-senses as per the law?
On the first issue I would just like to mention the IIA seminar I attended on 23 Sep. 2004, titled Making Delhi A Global City- Planning Strategies and Building Byelaws. The afternoon session speakers included only planners; Mr. A.K.Jain , Prof. Kavas Kapadia, Mr. S.C.Bhatia, Mr. B.K.Jain. The IIA organizers went to great length to introduce all of them as Architect- Planners and even went on to say for one speaker that even though he is in planning for last couple of decades but today he will speak as an architect. Incidently in their earlier seminar on similar topic at the PHD Chamber of Commerce, Mr. A.K.Jain was designated as Ar. A.K.Jain.(Thankfully they added the planner bit this time) It is perhaps a wishful thinking on my part but I do wish that I as a professional had a space which was for planners only and not always for something-planner. This issue definitely requires much greater debate in the ITPI and the SPA.
The Second issue ,obviously a matter of academic and professional interest, led me to look at the legality issue in greater detail. Delhi Secretariat building is located in Zone O for which the use identified is agriculture and water bodies. Some ad-hoc schemes/projects have been approved in this Zone for which the zonal plan is not yet approved. This is also identified as an area of special significance for the city.
For the Delhi Administration office, the Master Plan Delhi 2001 has stated “Major Delhi Administration Offices are located in Old Secretariat which is a historical building and should be conserved. Barracks adjoining to the Old Secretariat could be redeveloped to accommodate additional Delhi Administrative offices” This suggests that the Master Plan did not envisage shifting of Delhi Administration Offices.
Secondly, initially known as Players Building, along with the I.P.Stadium, the building was proposed during Asiad and identified as part of Recreational use (Imagine if the Secretariat had not shifted there we would not need to spend large amount of public resources on Commonwealth games village). Anyway, in 2001 plan the players building was incorporated as Commercial, but as I understand it still does not allow public and semi public use of that building without due process of change of use. It is quite possible that this change of use might have been already made of which I am unaware. This brings me to the related aspect of the process of public notice. If the DDA intends individuals, groups, professionals to participate then it has to make the public notice as visible as it makes its advertisements for the new residential and commercial schemes. I have never seen a Public Notice put up in the School of Planning and Architecture or the ITPI for professionals to respond. In one of the studies on Zone M by the students it was found that there was not a single objection received by the DDA on the draft Zonal Plan (rohini part) for a population of about half a million!
The Garden of 5-senses, second project, falls under J Zone which is primarily ridge area and rural zone.It is located in area earmarked as Regional Park P1 and may be P2 that is the district park since it does not show any color code. If we consider the ridge area in which regional park is permitted than ‘garden of five senses’ approximately of 8 ha area is not quite fitting in that category. This is because as per the DDA website the average area for a district park is about 6 ha.1 Moreover, about the regional park the DDA also says that, “With utmost care, DDA is converting all sections of the rocky ridge into city forests, with a minimum of artificial landscaping, providing Delhiites with an untamed jungle in the very heart of the city”.2 The Garden of Five senses on both these considerations is not quite in character of the regional park. This means that it could be a district park. If it is a district park then its location in the ridge area that too outside the Delhi urban area without the requisite population of the district to cater for seems unjustified, since district parks are primarily for the urban area.
Both these projects may have been perhaps approved by the DDA through change of use process. However, they remain ad-hoc projects since zonal plans for these zones have not been approved and these areas constitute the river and ridge and have been identified as areas of special significance. This means that it requires much more careful planning and much more stringent guidelines and much greater participation for its development. Let me quote from the Delhi-1999 A Fact Sheet published by the NCRPB on such adhoc projects:
“It is absolutely important that the practice of piecemeal and ad-hoc decisions should come to an end. As a corollary to this all development schemes currently been contemplated by Dilli Sarkar, DDA or participating states of the NCR and which proposals are clearly outside the approved plans… should not be taken up. In fact it is virtually impossible to discern the tearing hurry which tantamounts to preempting the options lefts for the national capital…. It may be pointed out that almost all such schemes outside the approved plans are infact illegal”. (P.74)
Both the Delhi Secretariat and Garden of Five Senses are government projects. Ideally the state should not step outside the law in spirit and in procedure. But it would appear that in these two cases they have violated the intent of the plan and in all probability lapsed on the procedure too. The Metro station development is a strong case in point for such a lapse in procedure. The first public notice for change of use for shastri park and others was published when the construction of the depot was almost complete. I have no idea what happened to the suggestions/ objections sent. The second notice published couple of months back which was almost invisible to most of us, notified change of use for unspecified use permissibility around all metro stations. Many professionals sent in their objections/ suggestions for the proposal. I am waiting for the response to those objections/suggestions but the Commissioner(Planning) DDA in yesterday’s presentation at the IIA emphasized on proposing white zoning meaning unspecified use permissibility especially along the metro corridor. He talked not only of the stations but of the whole corridor 500m on either side. This amounts to a space of the tune of 24500 hactares without any specified use!
The awards to these two projects are possibly justified from the architectural perspective, but from the planning perspective these projects have been violative of the spirit of the plan and even if approved under section 11a still raise the question of the process of participation through public notice which is illegal at its worst and dismissive at its best.