Before changing Master Plan, consider environmental impact: HC to Delhi authorities

[] Before making any change to the city’s Master Plan, policymakers should consider its possible impact on the environment, as well as the burden it would impose on civic amenities, the Delhi High Court has said

Before changing the Master Plan to permit commercial establishments to run from residential areas, the authorities should first look at the burden it would put on water, sewage, electricity, air pollution caused due to the increase in vehicular numbers, as well as the ‘light pollution’ caused by neon signs, the Delhi High Court has warned. Referring to the environmental impact of the increasing population and corresponding rise in the number of buildings in the national capital, a bench of acting chief justice Gita Mittal and justice C Hari Shankar, said that various species of birds have already disappeared from the city and others are fast disappearing.

“You have lost sparrows, crows are few in number and mynas are fast disappearing,” the court observed and added that even the flora has been affected, as fewer plants are seen flowering and the flowers too are smaller in size. The bench said that prolonged exposure to neon lights of commercial establishments would be harmful, even if curtains are drawn at night and added that it could also lead to psychological problems. “By the time the policymakers consider these aspects and take a decision, half of Delhi would be mad due to psychological problems,” the court remarked.

[] SC questions Delhi government, DDA, over proposed amendments in Master Plan

The observations by the bench came while hearing PILs seeking directions to the authorities, to take steps to deal with the menace posed by the rising numbers of monkeys and dogs in the national capital. The bench had earlier also commented on the government’s proposed amendment of the Master Plan, after traders protested against the sealing drive, observing that a few people have ‘held the city to ransom’. It had observed that by sitting on a dharna ‘you can get the Master Plan changed’. “Not because it is required, nor after checking if the city can handle it. It is done, because a few hundred people sit on a dharna. The Master Plan is being amended, because the traders have held the city to ransom by pulling down their shutters,” it said and asked the authorities whether an environment impact assessment was conducted, before proposing to amend the Master Plan-2021.

The Master Plan-2021 is a blueprint for urban planning and expansion in the metropolis, to ensure overall development and the proposed amendments were for bringing a uniform floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residential plots and complexes on par with residential plots. Traders across Delhi had, on February 2, 2018, shut down their shops in protest against the sealing of commercial establishments running from residential areas or premises.

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had, thereafter, proposed to amend the Master Plan, by providing uniform FAR for shop-cum-residence plots or complexes on par with residential plots, as given to properties on mixed-use street. The FAR is the ratio of a building’s total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land on which it is built.

The Supreme Court had earlier observed that the rule of law over sanction to construct buildings, had ‘completely broken down’ in Delhi and expressed concern over illegal construction. It had also ordered restoration of its 2006 monitoring committee, to identify and seal such offending structures.

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Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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