The international community has long agreed that sustainability of the environment is crucial to development. People can live longer lives and be more productive. Global warming can be controlled and biodiversity preserved. Future generations can rest assured that they will have the same natural resources their forefathers had. The environment in most parts of the globe is still unfavorable. This is especially true for India’s dense urban areas. The environment challenges affect all people, but the most severe effects are felt by the poor and vulnerable.
These conditions have been created mainly by flawed human practices. Sound environmental planning is therefore essential. The goal is to maximize benefits and reduce pressures on the environment.
India’s second-most populous city, Delhi also has a large population from the region. The environment has been impacted by the high population density and economic activities in the area. Inefficiencies in administrative work and poor working methods have also contributed to the decline. The city’s performance in many areas is poor, including air and water quality and drainage, as well as noise levels.
This article examines the case of India’s capital, Delhi. The Delhi Development Authority is currently finalizing the city’s draft master plan for the period of 2021-41. The perfect time to review all the planning proposals in the draft plan is now. The brief will be used to supplement DDAs environmental planning work for the upcoming masterplan. It reviews the most recent approaches and proposals, gives additional insight into issues, and offers specific ideas for improvement.
This analysis considers Delhi’s landscape, resources, as well as other characteristics. It focuses on the following elements (see Figure 1):
A Historical Account of Environment Planning
The DDA’s first masterplan (1961-81) designated locations for the development and maintenance of local, district, or regional parks. To prevent the over-spilling and premature urbanization, a green belt of protected agricultural land was proposed around urbanisable boundaries. The plan recommended shifting noxious industries from residential areas to industrial zones and provided a schedule.
The second plan period (1981-192001) saw Delhi experiencing high population growth, with its attendant challenges. The city’s two main natural features, the Aravalli Ridgeand the river Yamunawere negatively impacted. Parts of the Yamuna were polluted and parts of the Ridge were encroached upon. These features must be protected, according to the second plan. The plan called for the establishment of appropriate sanitation facilities to prevent untreated sewage and industrial refuse from entering the river. The plan also included water bodies that could act as lung spaces and improve micro-climate.Despite many of these recommendations being implemented however, Delhi’s environment continued its decline.
The third masterplan (2001-2021), was informed in part by unprecedented urbanization and its resulting environmental pressures. It recommended the installation of centralised sewage treatment plants, reuse of treated wastewater, restoration and replenishment of groundwater through rainwater harvesting. The plan suggested improving Delhi’s public transport facilities, and converting thermal power plants to gas-based.
Draft MPD-2041 Proposals to Promote Environmental Sustainability
Studies were conducted to determine the condition of Delhi’s environment before the draft masterplan was created. The problems are related to the spatial distribution and area under surface water bodies, air quality, noise levels and sanitation, as well as local temperatures.
Accordingly, the draft plan details the requirements to improve Delhi’s environment (see table 1). The sector-specific recommendations include enhancing green cover and area below water bodies, improving surface water quality, promotion non-polluting activities, green mobility and waste recycling, as well as preparation of noise reduction and dust management plans.
The draft plan also proposes a monitoring system to track environmental parameters and the on-ground progress of master plan policies implementation. The framework’s main features include key performance indicators (KPIs)-based evaluation.Multi-agency supervision of work coordination, data sharing and management. A dedicated monitoring unit provides support for project implementation.
Table 1. Table 1.
The Key Environmental Issues in Delhi
Pollution of the Air and the Sound
Air quality can vary significantly throughout the year. The quality of Delhi’s air is generally poor, but the monsoon season is an exception. The winter months are when pollution is at its highest. This is because the lower atmosphere traps dust and other pollutants in the air.
Emissions from motor vehicles, construction activities and activities of power plants, industries, brick kilns and informal sector activities are the most common sources of polluting.[a]Power generators and garbage burning[b]Other seasonal sources of pollution include farm stubble and dust storms. Accordingly, the draft MPD suggests solutions to both regional and local pollution.
Although state governments have taken corrective steps,[c]At different times, the problem remains of poor air quality. This means that not enough effort is made to monitor, control, and plan for the pollution sources. This could be due to insufficient personnel, finances, and other resources.
Also, pollution occurs when citizens and the government don’t have access to ecofriendly alternatives, operating procedures, and guidelines for their work. This has made it difficult for people to avoid using diesel-powered generators in commercial areas.To prevent crop residue burning on farm lands in Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar PradeshAs well as in the transition to electric vehicles.
Delhi’s air pollution is largely due to emissions from the transportation sector.Since 2001 successive administrations have taken various steps to reduce vehicle emissions. They have switched to Compressed natural Gas (CNG), and better fuels. They also implemented the Odd-Even plate scheme during periods when there is poor air quality. They have also phased out older motor vehicles and installed emission monitoring systems.
In accordance with the motor vehicle scrappage policy of India, the Government of India plans to establish fitness check centers in collaboration with private companies.[d]The goal is to phase out polluting vehicles across the country starting in April 2022.,The government has also decided not to register any 15-year-old vehicles within the NCR.
Current efforts are to move to 100 percent electrified vehicles (EVs), by 2030. Some Indian and foreign auto manufacturing companies[e]EVs are being sold and the infrastructure to charge them is being developed. An e-car is more than a million Indian rupees.Low purchasing power and high upfront expenses are key factors in low uptake. These could be achieved through the production of safer, more affordable electric vehicles and the installation of charging stations at public places.
The Delhi Electric Vehicles Policy was established by the Delhi government in August 2020 to accelerate EV adoption. The policy provides financial incentives for buyers, exemptions from road tax and registration fees, and establishes a vast network of charging stations. It will be crucial to address environmental concerns by creating a recycling network for batteries and EVs.
Air pollution can also be caused by economic activities like construction and manufacturing. MPD-2041 proposes regular monitoring of construction sites, and the implementation of dust management plans for construction agencies. It also recommended that existing polluting industries should be replaced by clean ones. This includes information technology, research and design, knowledge and innovation, hospitality, and tourism. However, there are more important interventions needed to improve the air quality situation. For example, penalties for polluting activities should be imposed and polluting industries should be moved from non-conforming regions.
The master plan will also address emissions from other sources such as pottery. Despite claims of using clean fuels, many pottery units still rely upon traditional sources of energy which can cause environmental pollution. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee has issued legal notices to potters asking them to replace their traditional kilns and install gas furnaces.This measure is necessary to improve air quality. However, potters should be concerned as it could impact their livelihoods. They argue that earthen furnaces can be used to make a wider range of earthen products and are easier to operate.
In studies to determine sources of pollution in Delhi, pollution from Indian railways is not mentioned. Some rail corridors, like the Delhi Jaipur corridor were expected to be electrified before December 2020.But, this has yet to be achieved. There are approximately 30-40 passenger trains and 40 goods trains that travel along this corridor every day.Rail engines are powered by diesel and produce large amounts of pollution.
Motor vehicles can also cause noise pollution. Inadequate surveillance by traffic police can lead to violations of regulations and signs, which can cause disorder. Technology-based traffic management systems can be used to address this problem. They will monitor road conditions and track and punish violators. It is equally important to raise awareness among motorists about noise pollution’s negative effects.
Water bodies, wetlands ridges, trees, green areas and green buildings all help to reduce the negative effects of air pollution. MPD-2041 calls to preserve and develop these blue and other green assets.
Some of the suggested measures include protection of the assets by creating green walls or buffers, afforestation and treatment of wastewater before disposal into water bodies. Processing and recycling of garbage is also recommended.
It is imperative to protect surface water bodies and groundwater against untreated wastewater, industrial effluents and garbage. The water quality of the Yamuna river is very poor. The MPD draft does not contain any proper proposals for Yamuna protection. It lacks a proper plan to address issues like garbage disposal and immersion of offering by devotees at religious events. It also fails to address the potential release of untreated wastewater and industrial effluents into the river. It is vital to improve the Yamuna’s condition, given its importance as a source of raw water for the water supply agencies.
The lake Najafgarh wetland should also be highlighted.[f]It is of poor quality and does not meet the prescribed acidity or dissolved oxygen standards that are required for wildlife support.This is due in part to untreated sewage that has entered the lake from Gurugram and other villages around Delhi.
These problems will be addressed by Delhi’s government by creating adequate treatment facilities. Plans include the upgrade of existing sewage treatment plant (STPs), and the establishment of new plants in a decentralised way. In the next three-years, 56 STPs will be built by the government.
A minimum groundwater level threshold is an important environmental requirement. This allows for the retention of water in water bodies and protects land surfaces from subsidence. According to Delhi’s water supply agency, Delhi is home to over a thousand water bodies. Many of these water bodies have dried out.
A study of Delhi’s groundwater situation revealed that the water level in Delhi ranges from 0.80m down to 65m below ground. The trend is increasing in maximum depth.
Illegal groundwater extraction poses a problem for efforts to revive and rejuvenate water bodies and recharge groundwater through rainwater harvesting. People who don’t have the water they need or are unable to use it enough often resort to these unfair practices. It is essential to ensure adequate water supply and punish those who violate the rules in order to address these problems. Draft MPD-2041 suggests groundwater should be recharged with treated wastewater, rainwater, and by creating aquifer replenishment ponds and lakes in Yamuna floodplains and biodiversity parks.
The Aravalli Mountain Range’s Aravalli ridge is often called Delhi’s lungs. It is rich in fauna and flora, and home to many water bodies and historical monuments. The protected area has been established to protect the ecosystem and ensure health and environmental benefits. However, some areas have seen unauthorised construction due to a lack of oversight by the authorities. Draft MPD-2041 proposes to increase biodiversity in order to preserve and conserve the ecosystem on the ridge.
Environmentalists are becoming more concerned about the possibility that the Aravallis could be opened up to construction activity in Haryana, which could lead to shrinkage in this ecologically fragile area.It would be a good idea for Delhi’s policymakers to learn from the regional plan of Goa.Two eco-sensitive zones have been identified and marked by the plan. These zones are mapped to protect fragile and endangered ecosystems. Zone I is not permissive for development. Zone II permits minor interventions that meet certain ecological requirements.
Although Delhi has done a good job in maintaining and growing the green cover, there are still areas for improvement. The lack of vegetation cover in different parts of Delhi leads to dust generation from passing motor vehicles and stormy weather conditions. These areas should be stopped from becoming barren.
Delhi’s hot and dry weather means that proper arrangements are required for watering plants. However, using motor vehicle tankers to water plants along roads can lead to over-consumption. Abu Dhabi is an exception to this. A network of rubber pipes with holes was laid in Abu Dhabi to provide water to the city according to a schedule. It is located in many green areas of the city.
The city’s green footprint must also be improved, as it has a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of the people who live in these buildings. Most buildings and group housing areas in Indian cities are built without regard to the need for preservation of the natural environment. They also fail to invest in proper ventilation systems, rainwater harvesting, solar rooftops, or rainwater harvesting. This causes waste of precious natural resources, and can lead to dust and emission in the building. These are both detrimental to human health. The indoor air quality will remain satisfactory by following green building standards. These buildings have mechanical ventilation systems that ensure fresh air is continuously supplied.
Rainwater harvesting in Delhi: It is important to note that the provision of RWH structures in properties exceeding 100 sq m is a mandatory requirement in order to obtain a house completion certificate and an occupancy certificate. However, many buildings don’t install the structures. It has been discovered that owners are less likely to invest in maintaining the apparatus after it is installed.
A second practice that plot owners engage in is the breaking of building by-laws. To allow air and sunlight to circulate better, some land must be left open on the sides of the house. However the owners can expand the built-up area after they have received the occupancy certificate and house completion certificate. Concretisation results in a reduction of greenery.
The draft MPD-2041 proposes a mandatory green rating[g]Keep checking back for any new developments. There are other ways to reduce CO.2 Emissions from buildings can be controlled by people-friendly policies. They must adhere to existing building regulations, support programmes, and an annual audit and inspection.
Sanitation and Drainage
For many years, Delhi has been unable to manage flooding and waterlogging. Waterlogging is often blamed on excessive rains, but the problem is actually caused by a poor drainage system. It is important to address the following issues: drainage network continuity and maintenance, drain size, and identification and improvement of waterlogged areas.
Although the administration knows the location of many waterlogged areas in their area, little is done to improve drainage systems. This is evident in the inundation and underpasses of roads and, more recently, in the international airport.
There are also problems with the storm water drainage system, and its size. The network is designed to transport storm water to areas where it can be harvested or sent to water bodies such the Yamuna. Storm water drains are not yet in place in many areas. The existing storm water drains are too small to handle the floodwaters during monsoon season. The drains in flood-prone areas such as the Delhi-Jaipur highway and several underpasses along it are very small. Indian city governments can learn a lot from the Singapore experience in storm water management. Singapore drains are wide and deep and are well maintained throughout the year.
You will find perennially flooded areas in many places around the city, including along railway lines, in slums, unauthorised colonies, and in peri-urban areas. nallahs (open drains). These are depressions in which rainwater is left behind, because the soil has lost its absorption capacity. The problem is further exacerbated by the inflow of wastewater from nearby informal areas. This is also a very common practice. These conditions have made the water greener and are perfect for breeding mosquitoes that can cause disease.
Delhi’s local governments need to do more in garbage planning, management, and disposal. Inefficiencies are seen in municipal waste collection, transportation, recycling, and disposal. The areas of greatest concern are the waste disposal sites, informal settlements, as well as peri-urban areas.
Conclusions and recommendations
The draft masterplan for Delhi contains planning proposals to improve the environment in Delhi by 2041. These proposals will be finalized and translated into development projects that can be implemented by the relevant agencies. It is important to ensure that the proposed projects are feasible, address emerging challenges and are implemented by the appropriate agencies in order to achieve the goal to make Delhi an environmentally sustainable city.
A look at the proposals reveals new ideas such as enhancing green-blue features of built fabric, promotion and clean economic activities and creation of multimodal hubs. These measures were not possible before. If they are successfully implemented, they will be instrumental in improving environmental quality.
This brief contains the following recommendations to improve Delhi’s environment components.
- A master plan is incomplete without mapping. Therefore, many of the proposed activities must be mapped. It is useful to map the exact locations of proposed activities, planning strategies, and biodiversity parks. If proposals are not mapped out, implementation will be haphazard. The implementing agencies cannot make decisions about the selection of locations or planning strategies. In this regard, trained planners and their mapping expertise can be of great assistance.
- Provision of eco-friendly diesel-run generator sets for residential, commercial and industrial areas. Crop residue burning in farm lands.
- Production of e-vehicles that are safer, cheaper, and better designed should be encouraged. Providing charging facilities at public places/fuel stations should be made available. The government should also develop and support innovative financing models to encourage EV adoption by price-sensitive consumers.
- Setting up enough CNG stations and ensuring sufficient supply.
- Motorised tankers, which are used for watering green areas, and other vehicles involved in the delivery of public service, such as gas cylinders, goods and gas cylinders, should be allowed only after they have met prescribed emission norms.
- The non-electric Indian railway corridors must be upgraded and electrified. Level railway crossings must be better managed. The 1975 circular railway network in Delhi, also known as the ring railway, is still not being used. This should be revived, and integrated with the metro system in order to reduce the road congestion.
- Intelligent traffic management systems are installed and enforced better rules, such as proper distance between vehicles and low-beam headlights after dark.
- The establishment and implementation of rules and regulations that will require communities, shop-owners, and industrial establishments maintain cleanliness around water bodies and in public places.
- Rejuvenation of public land that is barren, by covering it with vegetation to reduce the generation of dust particles.
- Promotion of recreational and educational activities such as hiking, trekking, and cycling along the Aravalli Ridge.
- Monitoring of new constructions regularly is essential to ensure compliance by green building norms.
- Waterlogging can be reduced. One, depressions along railway lines and in informal or semi-urban areas should have solid and demolition waste filled. Drainage facilities should also be provided. Storm water drains should be kept clear of trash and silt. To handle higher amounts of rainwater, the drains should be larger. All roads should be equipped with drainage facilities.
- Preparation and implementation of a decentralised waste management program that addresses all aspects of waste.
- Protection against illegal groundwater extraction and improvement of water supply.
Rumi Aijaz Is Senior Fellow at ORF
[a]Street food shops, auto repair shops, manufacturing units that are involved in dyeing garments, metal work, and electroplating are all examples.
[b]Street sweeping and firecracker popping can also contribute to pollution.
[c]The National Capital Region (NCR) states Haryana and Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh must follow the NCR plan and National Green Tribunal (NGT), Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA), and regulations and standard prescribed by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
[d]All vehicles must pass emission, brake, and safety equipment testing at these centres. Although the existing pollution control centres issue pollution under certificate based upon the vehicle’s pollutant emissions, a thorough assessment of vehicles is not done.
[e]These include Tata Motors and Hyundai Motor.
[f]The lake is considered the only rich wetland within the city that attracts large numbers birds. It has potential to raise groundwater levels in west Delhi areas like Dwarka which suffer from severe water shortages.
[g]The green building rating is an evaluation tool that measures the environmental performance a building has throughout its lifecycle. It includes criteria that evaluate various parameters related the design, construction, and operations of a building. These include energy systems and wastewater treatment facilities, water reuse, recycling, waste disposal facilities, ventilation, and others. A green building, for example, can reduce energy consumption and pollution by cooling or heating.
 Delhi Development Authority, Master Plan for Delhi, New Delhi: DDA, 1962.
 Delhi Development Authority, Master Plan for Delhi, New Delhi: DDA, 1990.
 Delhi Development Authority, Master Plan for Delhi-2021, New Delhi: DDA, 2007.
Key performance indicators include the number and quality of local PM2.5 monitoring stations, the amount of dissolved organic in surface water bodies, rise in green cover, number rejuvenated waterbodies, reduction in flooding hotspots. Quantity of wastewater reused. Increase in revenue from waste recycling. Quantity of energy usage from renewable resources. Number of seismic compliant buildings.
 Delhi Development Authority, Draft Master Plan For Delhi 2041, New Delhi: DDA Master Plan Section, 2021.
Pankaj Jain Air pollution: Diesel generators have been banned in Delhi NCR since October 15, India TodayOctober 14, 2020
Press Trust of India Delhi’s air quality drops to very poor. Stubbing contributes 14% to polluted atmosphere. India TodayOctober 17, 2021.
Shally Seth Mohile India will continue to have electric cars in a slow lane The Third Pole, 18 January 2021.
Ministry of Earth Sciences. High resolution inventory of major pollutants in mega-city Delhi for 2018 under the SAFAR program, Executive Summary.
Press Information Bureau Today’s launch of Vehicle Scrappage Policy is a significant milestone in India’s development journey. PM,August 13, 2021
 Government ready with 7 Fitness Centres under the new Vehicle Scrappage Policy. Check names below. News18.comApril 4, 2021.
Sweta Goswami The cost of electric vehicles will fall, and will be on par to petrol in 2 years. Hindustan TimesNovember 9, 2021.
 Delhi Pollution Control Committee asks 1,200 units of pottery to close their operations. The Indian Express26 July 2019,
Bhumika Popli A spoke in a potters wheel: Kumhar Gram, West Delhi’s potter colony. The New Indian ExpressOctober 27, 2019,
 The Jaipur to Delhii electrified Rail route will open in one week Times of IndiaNovember 29, 2020
Authors personal observation.
 Paras Singh, STPs to enhance wastewater treatment: Delhi Jal Board The Times of India, September 5, 20,21.
 Delhi Jal Board, Action taken Report on Jal Shakhi Abhiyan, Delhi: DJB, 2019, 184.
 Central Ground Water Board, Ground Water Year Book India 2017-18 & 2018-19Faridabad: Government
 Delhi Development Authority, Draft Master Plan For Delhi 2041.
 Sukhbir Siwach, Haryana govt panel suggests redefining Aravallis and shrinking protected area The Indian Express, September 13, 2021.
Town and Country Planning Department Goa 2021 Regional PlanGoa Government, 2010.
Authors personal observation.
 Soumya Pillai, Record rainfall causes havoc in Delhi; roads and airport are flooded. Hindustan Times, September 12, 20,21.
Authors personal observation.