Without basic services in place, land pooling won’t help: Experts

NEW DELHI: Land pooling may be touted as the solution to the city’s growing housing requirement, but experts say that it should be done with proper planning, especially of essential services like water. Failure to plan would result in adding to the existing load and lead to chaos in the city.

Citing one of Asia’s largest sub-cities, Dwarka, as a case in point, experts pointed towards the water crisis being faced by residents there. The water problem was finally resolved, though partially, after a decade long struggle and a PIL in Delhi high court. The area remained unoccupied for years due to this and even today the sub-city is getting a little more than half of its actual requirement of water.

“It was a long battle for something as basic as water. DDA should have planned for essential services while developing the area,” said Sushil Kumar, president of Dwarka Forum which had filed the PIL. “All societies had paid lakhs for sewer and water connections. After our plea of acute water shortage, DDA was allowed to temporarily dig borewells to meet the requirement. DJB has now taken over the supply system so now we get good quality water,” Kumar added.

Urban planners fear that similar problems will crop up in urban extensions which will be developed under the land pooling policy. “It is a good policy, but issues related to essential services like water should be addressed at the conceptual stage. It shouldn’t be like Dwarka which struggled for water supply,” said KT Ravindran, urban designer and former chairperson of DUAC.

Under the policy, those who give 2-20 hectares will get 48% of the total land back, while those parting with 20 hectares and above will get back 60% for development of residential, commercial and public and semi-public facilities.

Villagers are, however, concerned about the location of the land they will be returned as it will directly impact their livelihood. They say if land is given in a remote, undeveloped corner then they will not benefit from it. Another concern of farmers is forced acquisition of land. A provision in the guidelines allows acquisition as per prevailing land rates by the government if a farmer’s land falls between parcels which have been given for land pooling.

Once implemented, DDA officials said that land pooling will help develop 24-25 lakh housing units without getting stuck in the land acquisition process. Experts added that this will help in de-densification and providing better quality of life in the city.

“We have seen 60 years of planning fail. This policy, if implemented properly, will help in reshaping the city. However, the government should think of generating employment potential outside the city so that there is de-densification,” said SM Akhtar, dean of department of architecture, Jamia Milia Islamia University.

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Source: Times of India
6th September 2015

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