LETTER OF 08.07.2002 TO Mr P K PRADHAN, JS(D&L), MoUD
Sub: DDA scheme near CNG station west of Vasant Kunj / Sultangarhi Tomb (J-zone)
Ref: My letter of 01.07.02, etc
1. Subsequent to my letter under reference I have received from Central Ground Water Authority a copy of letter dated 03.07.02 from Member Secretary to DDA-VC in the matter of the above-mentioned scheme (Encl-1). The letter says that “construction of new flats in this area shall require water by its habitants which DDA and Delhi Jal Board may not be able to provide since Authority at present is not allowing new tubewells in notified areas”. The letter also refers to another case of “4 no. tubewells constructed without prior approval of Authority by DDA in Vasant Kunj”. It says “it shall be appropriate if DDA review its decision of further development vis-à-vis availability of water in notified areas so that further stress on ground water regime is avoided”.
2.As mentioned in my letter of 18.06.02, in a meeting with the Federation of RWAs of Vasant Kunj, CM (also DJB Chairperson) “categorically told DDA officials that no water was available for additional population”. (Encl-2, Federation’s letter to me with copy of its circular containing minutes of the meeting). DJB CEO and CE have also been reported several times in newspapers saying DDA should stop adding flats here and, in fact, should not even have built Vasant Kunj.
3. In the Express Newsline report of 30.06.02 referred to in my letter of 01.07.02 Vice Chairman DDA is reported to have “dismissed the water shortage in Vasant Kunj, saying there will be plenty of water for the new dwellers when the Sonia Vihar project is ready”. In a report on Vasant Kunj’s water crisis sent to Delhi Science Forum with copies to DDA-VC, DJB-CEO, CGWA-MS on 06.05.02 I have posited that the current demand for water in this CGWA notified area may well be ~10 MGD, of which only 1.3 MGD is river water. (Encl-3, newspaper article abstracted from my report). This is not even adequate for the designed requirement of Vasant Kunj, which was developed by DDA in the ‘80s in a significant departure from the Master Plan beyond urbanisable limits and in turn led to further unintended ground-water stressing development in the area. None of the government agencies have (in response to questions raised in my report or otherwise) provided an estimate in MGD of the amount of water that can realistically be expected from Sonia Vihar in this area, located at an elevation at the tail end of the distribution network. However, on just proportionate population basis, it does seem that even current shortfall is unlikely to be met and that DDA-VC’s optimism is quite misplaced and, in any case, not shared by CGWA and DJB.
4. In a report sent to DDA-VC in July 2001 I have argued that under the statutory provisions of the Master Plan relating to composition of housing in a residential area of 1 lakh population, there is already an excess of upper-income housing and flats here. As such, construction of more flats here cannot be considered as being in furtherance of Master Plan goals. In its letter of 30.05.02 to CGWA, with copy to DDA-VC, Delhi Science Forum has expressed strong reservations about DDA development beyond urbanisable limits in view of low carrying capacity of the area (Encl-4). In effect, DDA’s scheme for flats, while not furthering Master Plan housing goals, is poised to jeopardise its carrying capacity concerns (the basis for designating urbanisable limits, etc). Accordingly, it simply cannot be justified as being a necessary adjustment in line with DDA’s statutory mandate of securing development according to Master Plan.
5. Ever since July 2000 citizens’ groups from pre-Vasant Kunj settlements as well as Vasant Kunj flats have been seeking information and expressing reservations about DDA’ plans for this area, separately as well as through their synergy platform, the Master Plan Implementation Support Group. (Encl.5, MPISG letters dated 18.03.02, 01.04.02 and 11.04.02 requesting holding of construction work in abeyance till technical/procedural basis of the scheme has been clarified. Subsequent to MPISG letter of 11.04.02, citizens’ groups, NGOs and Councilor also wrote to DDA-VC, requesting the same on basis of specific concerns). The citizens’ groups have been objecting to DDA’s scheme on account of the water crisis as well as, in the case of pre-Vasant Kunj settlements, of it jeopardising their backlog entitlements under the statutory Master Plan (to which they have staked claim vide letters to DDA-VC). DDA has not responded to numerous letters from various citizens’ groups requesting information about or objecting to its scheme.
6. On 14.06.02 a news report in the Statesman quoted DDA Commissioner Planning as saying about the mandatory landuse change procedure for the site that the file was with the Ministry. On 18.06.02, when I was able to confirm from your Under Secretary that landuse change permission had yet to be granted for the site, I had written to you immediately. On 20.06.02 I had mentioned this matter to DDA-VC in a letter about a series of DDA schemes and announcements in disregard of the Master Plan. I had sent a copy of the same to your Director. On 26.06.02 I had written again to your Director and on 01.07.02, with reference to remarks made by DDA-VC in the news report in Express Newsline of 30.06.02, again to you. I had also sent you a copy of my letter of 28.06.02 to DS to CMO. I have yet to receive a response from the Ministry to my ‘representations’ drawing attention to the fact that, even without mandatory landuse change permission till June 2002, DDA had effected summary demolition in July 2000, laid a foundation stone and publicly displayed a prima facie illegal and obviously detrimental scheme in September 2001 and started construction work on it in March 2002. As mentioned in my ‘representations’ this construction work has involved already the felling of over two dozen trees, digging of a tube-well without CGWA’s mandatory approval, massive recharge area damaging earthwork and an accidental death. (Encl-6, my letters to the Ministry for ready reference).
7. DDA’s brazen ‘presumption of permission’ is clearly evident in L&T and AlCon’s continuing presence on the site and in Express Newsline’s reporting of DDA-VC having “brushed aside the fact that permission has not been received” and said, “We have asked for permission and the process is being completed”. However, from what I understand as a planner of the DDA Act, in view of all of the foregoing this ‘presumption of permission’ for Master Plan landuse change does not seem to have any tenable basis.
(a)While DDA is empowered to make modifications to the Master Plan, these must be justifiable as necessary adjustments in pursuit of the broader goals of the Plan and, in any case, can not involve major structural changes. However, the scheme in question (which involves substantial changes in landuse/density configuration) will, as mentioned at #4 previously, jeopardise rather than further Master Plan goals as well as, as indicated at #5 previously, citizens’ entitlements under the Plan.
(b)It is necessary for DDA to consult other agencies concerned with infrastructure provision, etc, prior to making major structural modifications to the Plan. In this water starved area that is one of 11 areas notified by CGWA across the country, CGWA and DJB clearly must have a decisive say in Plan modifications. However, as mentioned at #1-3 previously, it is obvious that DDA has not consulted them and that its scheme is contrary to their views.
(c)Citizens have a right at least to an opportunity to object to landuse changes once they are notified. In this case, for nearly two years DDA has not even bothered to clarify the status of its plans and approvals, let alone respond to reservations and objections (as mentioned at #5 previously) raised by several citizens’ groups on the basis entirely of their entitlements under the Master Plan. It is indeed ironical that ‘objections’ of citizens’ groups seeking Master Plan implementation should be so brazenly circumvented by DDA in pursuit of a scheme for which neither basis nor justification can be found in the Master Plan.
It is now three weeks since I first wrote to you in this matter. I am unable to understand why work on this scheme that does not, indeed should not / can not, have landuse change permission is going on. I am also unable to understand why my letters on this serious and urgent matter, far from precipitating immediate action, have remained unanswered. I would appreciate it if you would at least let me know if I my correspondence with the Ministry is of any use at all in view of DDA’s ‘presumption of permission’ and the honouring of its VC with the National Citizen’s Award for his “unique contribution in the field of urban development”.
Gita Dewan Verma
cc: for information
- Delhi Science Forum
- Master Plan Implementation Support Group