On 09 June I had made a presentation about the
implications of development in the historically
significant and groundwater critical ridge / ridge
periphery area between Delhi and Gurgaon (J-zone) with
special reference to the Sultangarhi scheme.

Some of those present had suggested then a visit to
the site to decide if and how they wish to engage.
They have scheduled this for 8 AM ON SUNDAY 15 JUNE.

If you can make it convenient, please do come.

The following is the note I circulated along with my
presentation. The presentation of 09 June and more
about the Sultangarhi case will be on the web in a day
or two.

Regards, Gita (Ph. 2 6895840, 2 6132921)
----------------------------------------


DDA’ SULTANGARHI SCHEME: Grass-eating fences

On 05.06.2003, Environment Day, Delhi Development
Authority (DDA) issued a press note about its
Sultangarhi scheme – environmental catastrophe
infringing citizens’ physical and democratic space.

Press reports of 06.06.2003 speak of the scheme as
‘Urban Design Plan’, some mentioning a housing
component. A Tender Notice of 26.05.2003 for 4 wells
calls it ‘Sultangarhi Conservation Complex’. News
reports of 02.05.2003 speak of ‘studios for young
artists’ in it. A Public Notice about it published on
15.09.2002 was for land use change of 56 Ha for
residential, public/semi-public and recreational use.
The PIL that precipitated this Notice and in which a
Division Bench of Delhi High Court ordered the scheme
stopped on 16.09.2002 was against HIG flats being
built in the green belt. DDA told the Court reputed
firms would build 2000 mega-housing flats near an
Archaeological Park. The scheme displayed at a
function on the site on 25.09.2002 had housing and
international heritage complex, latter with Indian
National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)
and reputed designers.

DDA’s 56 Ha scheme is in the ridge/ ridge periphery,
beyond Master Plan urbanisable limits in J-zone meant
for rural use (including green belt), in an area duly
notified by Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA). The
Master Plan, since 1962, prohibits development here
due to constrained water sources and National Capital
Region Plan does so as sprawl in this direction will
jeopardise regional dispersal of population. CGWA
notification of 1999 is indicative of the import of
development already come about in disregard of the
Plan. Unplanned development here has regional and
citywide implications for carrying capacity and
directly infringes local citizens’ Plan entitlements
to land, water, etc.

In the PIL in which Delhi High Court ordered the
scheme stopped and inquired into, DDA and Ministry of
Urban Development had claimed concurrence of CGWA,
Delhi Jal Board, National Capital Region Planning
Board, Archaeological Survey of India, Delhi Urban Art
Commission and Delhi Government. Requests to these
agencies for clarifications / response to Public
Notice / intervention to stop work continuing in
defiance of court orders elicited no meaningful
response, nor was a request for Public Hearing in
presence of all concerned agencies heeded. A Public
Hearing of objections, filed in response to the Public
Notice by over 1700 families, mostly from 50-year old
settlements of Rangpuri Pahari and 400-year old
Mahipalpur village in the area, was held on 27.01.2003
through a dozen interviews. Although nearly all
objections were based on questions about techno-legal
basis (raised in prolific efforts to secure
development strictly according to Plan since July 2000
following a demolition in Rangpuri Pahari) and about
defects in Public Notice process and non-compliance of
court orders (raised since October 2002), the Hearing
provided no answers. Commissioner Planning, in charge
of it, was implicated in the DDA scam in March 2003.
Even after the CBI expose, removal of illegally
excavated material and construction of wall
(prominently featured in press reports of 06.06.2003
and complained against since November 2002) continued,
‘studio complexes for young artists’ were announced, a
tender for wells was issued and now a press-note has
been released.

FOR THE RECORD, DDA’S SULTANGARHI SCHEME IS IN
DISREGARD OF DELHI MASTER PLAN AND DELHI DEVELOPMENT
ACT, OF ORDERS OF A DIVISION BENCH OF DELHI HIGH
COURT, OF PUBLIC OPINION EXPRESSED THROUGH DUE PROCESS
OF PUBLIC NOTICE BY OVER 1700 FAMILIES DIRECTLY
AGGRIEVED BY IT, OF OPINION OF EXPERTS CONCERNED ABOUT
ITS CONSEQUENCES FOR THE CITY, OF CITIZENS’ 3-YEAR
LONG EFFORTS TO SEEK CLARIFICATION OF ITS TECHNO-LEGAL
BASIS, OF CITIZENS’ 9-MONTH LONG EFFORTS TO SEEK
MERELY COMPLIANCE OF COURT ORDERS AND COMPLETION OF
DUE PROCESS OF PUBLIC NOTICE, OF STATUTORY /
CONSTITUTIONAL MANDATES OF SEVERAL PUBLIC AGENCIES –
IN SHORT, OF MANY DEMOCRATIC PROCESSES MEANT TO ENSURE
THAT LAWFUL PUBLIC INTEREST PREVAILS OVER VESTED
INTERESTS.

I am writing this not because I cannot read the
writing on the wall but because I am incensed by it.
Here are 20 questions about the scheme that have been
asked and not answered, questions that I believe must
be answered and asked till they are answered. These
are all premised on a simple line of argument:
‘Planned development’ in Delhi is not a phrase open to
willful interpretation but a concept duly defined in
law as development according to the Master Plan. The
Master Plan is not a plannerly artifact but a document
of citizens’ entitlements, modifiable only by due
process of law. These entitlements flow from Delhi
Development Act under which DDA was created (with
representation of state / local bodies) only for
development according to Plan and from Delhi’s land
policy through which cheaply acquired land was placed
at the state’s disposal only for this. The Act does
not contemplate land ownership by the state, only
responsibility of development according to Plan. All
willful development in contravention of the Master
Plan (and not, say, merely layout plan violating
settlements of those whose Master Plan entitlements
have not been implemented) is ‘encroachment’ on public
land and, if it comes about in disregard of objections
by those whose entitlements to benefits of planned
development on it are being infringed, of democratic
space as well.

1.        Since the Act contemplates by ‘Plan’ only Master
Plan / Zonal Plans and since the Master Plan prohibits
development in the area and Zonal Plan for it has yet
to be approved, what is the legal sanctity of DDA’s
Sultangarhi ‘scheme’ / ‘conservation complex’ / ‘Urban
Design Plan’?
2.        What empowers DDA’s Urban Heritage Foundation to
violate the Master Plan for a scheme with no basis in
Plan provisions for Heritage (which do not cover
monuments beyond urbanisable limits) in disregard of
backlog responsibility (such as conservation of
historic Mahipalpur village)?
3.        Why has DDA drawn a simplistic line / wall at 300m
around the Tomb when statutory Plan provisions require
a regulated area around significant monuments to be
delineated at time of Zonal Plan preparation for
conflict-free solutions for best advantage, including
for heritage?
4.        Why did DDA and MoUD not take cognizance of
complaints about construction of the wall, and later
announcement of studios and tender notice for wells,
in disregard of court orders and Public Notice
process?

5.        Does mandatory planning data suggest that realistic
possibilities from Sonia Vihar, rainwater harvesting,
etc, are sufficient even to meet current shortfall
(~10 MGD demand and ~1.5 MGD river supply), let alone
permit development prohibited by the Plan precisely
for water constraint?
6.        Since ridge-to-river flows are ecologically crucial
for Delhi and since protection of ridge and river is a
key premise of the Master Plan, have implications of
development in this area – perched at the end of this
system – for the water resource in the sub-city region
been thoroughly examined?
7.        Since the area has several historic water
structures, some dating back to the 14th century, have
implications of groundwater intervention here been
thoroughly assessed at area level, including, say,
implications for the historic johad in Mahipalpur
about a kilometer away?
8.        Since the scheme has already involved digging of
wells for withdrawal of ground water and a tender for
more is out and ground water recharge is also claimed
as is inadequacy of water, will the scheme withdraw
from or add to the local ground water resource in net
terms?

9.        Since regional dispersal of population is crucial
for carrying-capacity based development of Delhi and
the Master Plan requires J-zone to be protected so
Delhi and Gurgaon do not merge, have implications of
an up-market scheme here been considered from this
perspective?

10.        Since the housing shortage in the area according
to the Master Plan is by way of backlog on housing
entitlements of existing communities in Rangpuri
Pahari, Mahipalpur village expansion, etc, why is
up-market mega-housing for unsustainable additional
population being located here?
11.        Why has the court-ordered inquiry into the scheme
not been conducted, even after a tendering scam
surfaced in mega-housing projects, and with what
presumption are contractor firms maintaining their
worker sheds here (being used for labour from their
other work sites)?

12.        Why did Archaeological Survey of India give
approval to the scheme even as it fails to take full
advantage of Plan provisions for heritage resource
protection?
13.        Why did Delhi Urban Art Commission give approval
to the scheme that jeopardises environmental /
heritage concerns central to its statutory mandate?
14.        Why did Central Ground Water Authority not stop
illegal ground water withdrawal in this scheme and, in
general, not come up with comprehensive guidelines to
pre-empt arbitrary interventions?
15.        Why did Delhi Jal Board give concurrence to the
scheme that will add to water demand while it is
unable to meet even current demand?
16.        Why did National Capital Region Planning Board
give concurrence on grounds of ‘contiguity to built up
area’ even as this ground makes regional dispersal,
its mandate, impossible?
17.        Why did Government of Delhi (Land and Building
Department) give concurrence even as the scheme
infringes citizens’ entitlements to water and land?
18.        Did any of the above and Municipal Corporation of
Delhi, whose school and interventions in the area are
at threat, respond to the Public Notice when requested
by citizens?
19.        Did any of the above and Delhi Police, besides DDA
and MoUD, try to do anything on requests to them to
intervene to ensure stoppage of work after court
orders?

20.        Amidst growing nexuses and weakening safety
valves, broadmindedness about lawlessness and
intolerance of protest against it, willful favours
becoming fashion and denial of rights fashion
accessory – amidst clear and present anarchy – what
democratic processes remain available to those who
wish simply to safeguard explicit entitlements?

Gita Dewan Verma / Planner / 07.06.03

PS: I write Planglish and can not fit 3 years in 2
pages. I can offer to try and make myself somewhat
more clear – mpisgplanner@yahoo.com / 26895840,
26132921.

 

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