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As DDA's Land Pooling Plan Continues to Be Delayed, Are Its Goals Still Achievable?

Landowners are also not satisfied with the policy and are confused about certain clauses such as redistribution of land, registration of fragmented landholdings.
Photo taken during site visit. Some of the agricultural lands are already converted into non-agricultural land use such as setting up schools, warehouse business and temporary accommodation for keeping cattle. Credit: Vipul Kumar.

The Draft Master Plan for Delhi, 2041 is banking on land pooling as a new paradigm for urban development, creating world-class smart neighbourhoods, and meeting future housing supply in Delhi.

One of the clauses in the draft plan states that identified land pooling areas have the potential to develop 17-20 lakh dwelling units for the next 20 years in Delhi. Having rolled out the first draft of the land pooling policy in 2013 and subsequently amending and revising the policy in 2018, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is yet to resolve pressing concerns around the policy, leading to further delay in its implementation.

The landowners from across 95 villages that are declared ‘urban’ and ‘development area’ through the DDA Act, 1957 for implementation of the land pooling policy are unhappy with certain provisions in the policy. Many farmers alleged that real estate dealers have created an environment which forces distress sales as they are unable to manage their household expenses from farm income.

Also, illegal constructions are an everyday reality. Farmlands are shrinking at a rapid pace. In the long run, the planning appears dud when compared with the illegalities that are in play in the areas designated under the land pooling policy.

Zone L, located in the southwest part of Delhi, has around 30 declared ‘urban’ villages and 41 sectors proposed to be developed under the land pooling policy. After four rounds of window opening till December 2020, for landowners to voluntarily register their land under the policy, approximately 1,680 hectares of land (20%) is tentatively pooled out of the 8,020 hectares available.

Though the DDA conducted few field visits in some of the urban villages in 2018 and 2019 to spread awareness about the policy, the landowners are not satisfied and are confused about certain clauses such as redistribution of land, registration of fragmented landholdings, the scope for future participation, timeline for implementation of the policy and external development charges in the policy.

Also read: Delhi’s Draft Master Plan 2041 Is of the DDA, Not of the People

Private players

A small group of farmers who are residents of Neelwal village, which falls under the proposed sector 03 in Zone L, during a personal discussion said, “Since we have no idea when this development is going to take place as the policy is being amended and delayed, some people inside the village who have registered their land under land pooling are thinking of withdrawing. We would prefer to wait until we get good returns and sell our land to private builders and developers. Till then, we can continue to practice agricultural activities, at least we can feed the family of one household from one acre of land.”

Neelwal village Khasra boundary map overlaid on the Master Plan of Delhi 2021. The Khasra boundary map shows the location of existing natural features present in the area. Photo: Author provided

This photo is provided by the authors. Neelwal village Khasra boundary map overlaid on the Master Plan of Delhi 2021. The Khasra boundary map shows the location of existing natural features present in the area.

This photo is provided by the authors. The draft proposed land use Master Plan of Delhi 2041 and demarcation of existing Neelwal Village Khasra boundary. (The MPD 2021 and MPD 2041 maps show how the greenfield area earmarked for urban extension is lying unutilised for the past two decades  — a large part of which is now full of unauthorised constructions and illegal colonies.)

With the participation of private players in the land pooling policy, the village landowners constantly referred to the competition between them and developers and how the developers will ultimately benefit in the long run. Based on the land ownership details of the proposed sector 03, at least 31% of the land has already been purchased by private builders and developers and registered under the land pooling policy. However, some of the village landowners, especially with fragmented land holdings on a single land parcel, are yet to register their land under the policy.

Pointing to the layout plan of the proposed sector 03, prepared by the DDA, an old man from Neelwal village said, “Better land and flats would go to the developers and builders. We will get our houses near drains or garbage dumps.” The conversation points to the fact that the consortium is likely to be dominated by big developers and builders at least in the proposed sector 03, which would be disadvantageous for small and marginal landowners of the village.

Also read: Ranjit Sabikhi’s Reflections on Evolution of Delhi’s Space Offer a Window Into Urban Design

The landowners of Neelwal village also raised questions on the external development charges (EDCs) that the DDA will levy for the development of public infrastructure and services such as parks and playgrounds. With a meagre income from agricultural activities, these landowners will not be able to afford EDCs when the development is going to take place.

A young resident of Neelwal, who runs a vehicle repair shop, said, “Some of the residents earn around Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000 per month. How will they be able to afford EDC charges or accommodation in flats when they are constructed? They will have to sell their land and move to Haryana.”

This photo is provided by the authors. Existing land use map of Neelwal village Khasra boundary. The core residential Abadi area of the village is surrounded by agricultural fields on all sides including a large canal system and no tube wells.

The above map shows the existing land use pattern of Neelwal village’s revenue boundary. Most of the existing land use is agricultural with the presence of multiple wells situated in farmlands. The Abadi area of the village lies within the Phirni road and constituent residential land use. A sub-drain passes through the outskirts of the village on the southeast corner that connects with a larger drain falling into the Najafgarh drain. There are several local roads currently used to access agricultural fields.

Need to address social equity concerns

With the DDA embarking upon a land pooling policy for the future development of Delhi, it has to build confidence among the village landowners who are confused and apprehensive to participate in the policy. The policy requires a new form of engagement from the DDA as most of the benefits to landowners will accrue only after the development has taken place. There is a huge time gap between the pooling of land and the delivery of constructed houses or serviced land to the owners.

The DDA should address the social equity concerns that arise from the policy’s implementation. Unless the DDA takes the proactive approach of interacting with different stakeholder groups, especially the village landowners by developing clear and transparent mechanisms, the target to provide 17 lakh dwelling units through land pooling remains difficult to achieve.

Vipul Kumar is working as a project intern in the CITIIS (City Investments to Innovate, Integrate and Sustain) Program at the National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi.

Paras Tyagi is the co-founder of the Centre for Youth Culture Law and Environment (CYCLE), which is rooted in an urban village of Delhi.

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