New ideas, same old city: Experts speak on new masterplan for Delhi’s Walled City


Express News Service

The draft of the Master Plan of Delhi (MPD) 2041 is ready and uploaded on the website of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to seek suggestions and objections from the public. The document will soon be given final shape and notified after reviewing their feedback. The DDA roped in the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) to formulate the MPD 2041.

Like previous plans, the MPD 2041 has a dedicated chapter for regeneration and conservation of the heritage precinct of the  Shahjahanabad i.e. the Walled City. However, the experts including incumbent and retired officials of the DDA, MCDs, and urban planners have reservations about its implementation and success.

Besides questioning the ‘easing’ of development control norms and exemptions promised in the plan, they are particularly not impressed with the deadline for shifting of noxious industries or traders and conditions stipulated for allowing mix-use – cultural and commercial activities such as artist studios or public performances with the opening of cafes, co-working spaces, and hotels on only certain roads.

It has fixed a time limit of 10 years for moving noxious industries, godowns and wholesale business. The provisions and schemes in the context of the Walled City, in the draft are vague and impractical, said a former high-official of the unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

“It is wishful thinking. The agencies couldn’t remove the paper and chemical traders despite being served notices in 2009. Now, 10 years have been given for shifting. This is too much. The MPD 2041 says noxious trades and units should be shifted to designated places. But it has not defined what noxious trade and hazardous units are. What are these designated places? This ambiguity will be another stumbling block,” said the retired official, who was associated with Chandni Chowk and Jama Masjid precinct redevelopment project.

The issue of relocation of industries and traders was prominently underlined in the first Master Plan of Delhi in 1962 with a deadline of five years. Similar provisions were incorporated to the subsequent MPDs in 2001 and 2021 setting a cut-off date of three and five years respectively.

The paper and chemical merchants of old Delhi were allotted space in Ghazipur and Holambi Kalan. Even after issuing sealing notices in 2009 to those who didn’t shift, the civic body didn’t pursue the matter later.

Considering the failed attempts for regeneration of the Walled city and its decongestion since 1962, the stakeholders have suggested a door-to-door survey to ascertain demography and industrial units in the Walled City and the formation of a single agency for better execution of plans.

Recommending a detailed survey of the area, Vijay Singh, former deputy commissioner of MCD, said that shifting of trade should be time-bound and specific. “First a survey of the area should be conducted to find out the status of a property – to check unauthorised alteration and status whether the building is being used for residential purpose or commercial set-up is being operated there. Until and unless we are not aware of their use, planning can’t be done. More importantly, there should be just one authority for the Walled City for planning, implementation, and development,” said Singh, who also served as the consultant (tourism project) with the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC). 

The experts further endorsed suggestions for time-bound coordinated measures for specific doable and objectives for Shahjahanabad redevelopment. “For everything, more time is being given generously in the draft. If the authority has liberty of 2 or 10 years, when will the actual plan be implemented on the ground?” said a government official associated with urban development projects in the city.

He was referring particularly to one of the prerequisites in the MPD 2041, which says that “all cultural precincts within the Walled City shall be delineated within two years”.

AK Jain, former commissioner (planning) of DDA said that the plan still has a lot of scope and could have been more comprehensive. “Ultimately, a detailed plan is to be made. But it has not been stated which agency will make the plan and how much time it will take. It seems superfluous,” he said.

The stakeholders also sought adequate measures to incentivise residents and owners of the heritage properties to fast track implementation of schemes and de-incentivise to ensure the protection of its legacy.    

“The plan proposes to give incentive by allowing economic activities – opening of café, art gallery, or music hubs – on roads with six-metre width. This condition will restrict activities till main roads and no changes will take in streets or bylanes, where a lot of havelis are located. There is hardly any wide road left to promote such activities. All these are conceptual mistakes,” said another government official, who requested anonymity. 

However, Leenu Sahgal, commissioner (planning), DDA said that for regeneration or transformation of Shahjahanabad as a cultural hub, some space or broad streets would be required.

‘Coordinated efforts needed to draft a vision’

An urban designing expert, associated with the draft of MPD, said, “Shahjahanabad being a living Walled City is definitely a difficult context. However coordinated efforts between local bodies and other authorities, to take stock of what’s existing and drafting a vision for the area is very critical. Preparation of an integrated plan for the area – the first step – should be prepared with local consultation.”

A complete redevelopment won’t work for old city and officials need to take time-bound implementation seriously. Master Plan suggests a number of ways of how things in should be thought about. Old city’s problem is that it needs case to case basis decisions on projects. 


Provisions in draft of MPD 2041 for Shahjahanabad & experts’ comments and opinions on these provisions. Support may be provided to owners of heritage buildings to undertake conservation or adaptive reuse

  • This provision, approved by the SRDC, already exists 

Old markets such as Lajpat Rai Market shall be retained

  • The Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Authority (SRDC) has already proposed redevelopment of old retail markets. It is aligned with its visions. The concept plan of the SRDC also talks about development of the local economy.

  • There should have clearly defined specifications about Lajpat Rai Market because it presently comprises three sites/marketplaces including ‘Pleasure Garden Market’ and have unauthorised construction upto three floors.

  • According to previously settled arrangements, Lajpat Rai Market should be single storey because it is just opposite to the Red Fort.

Artist studios, performance spaces, museums, libraries, cafes, music venues, co-working spaces, craft centres, hotels, Bread & Breakfast facilities shall be permitted in plots with access from minimum six-metre-wide road, irrespective of applicable land use

  • Only a limited number of  roads are six-metre-wide or above, where commercial activities like retail shops are already functioning. No one will agree to shut existing business establishments.

  • Most havelis or heritage buildings are located inside the narrow lanes like Kucha Pati Ram. Those properties can’t qualify for the six metre rule.

Stilt parking shall not be permitted

  • Blanket rules can’t work in old Delhi.

  • Each locality and lane has a different character. In narrow lanes, haphazardly parked two wheelers are a nuisance and leave no space for pedestrians. Stilt parking for two wheelers may help to resolve parking issues.   

Plots that are unable to utilise the permissible floor area ratio (FAR) shall be eligible for Transferable Development Right (TDR). Owners shall also be eligible to an incentive FAR of 20 for preservation and upkeep of the heritage property retaining its original heritage character and fabric

  •   In which areas TDR will be available or given to beneficiaries?

  •   The areas should have been identified, where the owners of a property could claim TDR

  •   The draft MPD says that the DDA will give a TDR certificate.

  •   This will lead to another round of bureaucratic struggle.

No more open spaces in the Walled City shall be taken up for creation of multilevel car parkings (MLCPs) as a large number of metro stations are closely located in the area

  • Why should residents of the Walled City be punished? People outside Shahjahanabad get every possible facility and comfort.

Local bodies/concerned agency shall levy penalty in case of failure to meet committed repairs and maintenance or in case of damage to heritage value of the building

  • As per the existing rules, it is the responsibility of the property owners to carry out repair or conduct regular maintenance.
  • However, for such permission, one is forced to make the rounds of public authorities’ offices. Incentive schemes may help them.

Maximum permissible height for construction shall be 12 metres

  • 15 meters is permitted in the rest of the city. There are buildings in old Delhi which have six floors. Rules should be framed or aim to regulate existing structures so that appropriate measures like retrofitting for repair of dilapidated properties could be initiated.

Nightlife circuit

  • There should be a separate excise policy for the Walled City to promote nightlife
  1. 380 years ago, Shahjahanabad was established by the then Mughal emperor Shahjahan

  2. 600 hectares area and it was originally built for only 60,000 people 

  3. 783 heritage structures, including 229 historical buildings and 325 havelis

  4. 10 big roads and over 60 main streets in the area

  5. 15 big markets that receive heavy footfall every day

Old city is now a commercial Hub

  • In 1961, the population hit an all-time high, touching 4.20 lakh, and collapsing civic amenities was its obvious after-effect. The whole Walled City area was notified a slum under the Slum Area Act

  • Population dipped by 50% in next four decades 

  • The Walled City presently holds population of around 3.25 Lakh people including the homeless

  • The area witnessed phenomenal increase in number of commercial establishments after 1961. Their number increased from 22,000 in 1961 to 1.55 lakh in 1981  

  • According to the SRDC report, there are still 1.53 lakh such units, out of which 10.33% are operating inside households

  • In 2008, the Delhi government has set up a special purpose vehicle – Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC) for the conservation and revitalisation of the Walled city as mandated by the Master Plan of Delhi 2021 but that too did not help to turn its fortune.

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