Delhi choosing high-rise over consultative planning despite national consensus on slums

Children running through the Jawaharlal Nehru camp in Govindpuri. Photo: Greg Randolph

Children running through the Jawaharlal Nehru camp in Govindpuri. Photo: Greg Randolph

The global community of designers, urban practitioners and community organisers is largely in agreement over what type of urban form promotes inclusive cities: mixed-use, mixed-income neighbourhoods that enable mobility, encourage pedestrianism, and incorporate multi-use public spaces. But the architectural team in the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the primary agency responsible for planning and land development in India’s capital, is busy designing high-rise low-income housing that looks like the failed projects of the Bronx and the banlieues. Far from becoming the “world class city” it is striving to be, Delhi is poised to repeat the public housing mistakes of the West…

In the east Delhi neighbourhood of Sundernagari, an intensive community interaction process in designing a pilot project for RAY itself resulted in a design of four-storey cluster units. By maximizing light and ventilation but limiting direct sunlight in the summers, the design ensures year-round energy efficiency. The plan still achieved densities of 600 households per hectare, roughly equivalent to a dense urban slum.

Win-win solutions for slum redevelopment and urban renewal exist; they have evolved out of a decades-old dialectic between governments, communities, and designers. Cities like Delhi and agencies like the DDA must engage in that dialectic and pay attention to that history if they seek to craft an urban future that is socially, environmentally and economically vibrant, if they seek to create cities that are celebrated as “world-class”.


Greg Randolph is a William J. Clinton Fellow of the American India Foundation. Based in Delhi, he works with micro Home Solutions, a social housing initiative.

Read the full article in The Global Urbanist

The Global Urbanist is an online magazine reviewing urban affairs and urban development issues in cities throughout the developed and developing world. Its readers are drawn from the urban policy and international development sectors, and include urban planners, officers in local, national or international government agencies, civil society leaders, and researchers.