Before Yamuna became a drain and Delhi Ridge started getting encroached Delhi was often compared with Washington DC, as both are open green capitals with a forest and water body in them. From Nature’s side, Delhi is more fortunate as both its forest and river are natural and ancient whereas both are man-made in Washington DC.
Let us see what Indian Capital can learn from the USA capital. While Delhi has a unique standing because of the presence of the world’s oldest mountain chain – The Aravalli ending here called Delhi Ridge. This arid forest is the green lung of Delhi, its carbon sink and home to innumerable birds and wild animals. Washington DC’s oldest park – (over 100 years old) is Rock Creek Park considered a gem of the city. It offers an opportunity to be with nature with its majestic trees, wild animals, fresh crisp air and thousands of years of human history emanating in the delicate aura of the forest.
Delhi has river Jamuna the biggest and second largest tributary river of Ganga in Northern India. Originating from the Yamunotri Glacier at a height of 6,387 meters on the south western slopes of Banderpooch peaks in the uppermost region of the Lower Himalayas in Uttarakhand, it travels a total length of 1,376 kilometers (855 mi) and has a drainage system of 366,223 square kilometers (141,399 sq. mi), 40.2% of the entire Ganges Basin, before merging with the Ganges at Triveni Sangam, Allahabad, the site for the Kumbha Mela every twelve years. It is the longest river in India, which does not directly flow to the sea. Washington DC has a water channel located between the Southwest Waterfront on the east side and East Potomac Park on the west side.
Delhi severely lacks in the upkeep of both of its natural assets and the layout of its streets and highways. While in Washington DC the streets and highways form the core of the city’s infrastructure, that’s not the case in Delhi. As a planned city, streets in the capital of the United States follow a distinctive layout and addressing scheme.
Of the many issues Delhi is facing, one is: does it need more road space or better road planning? The issue becomes important because of many court cases by individuals, R.W.A.’s, nurseries against tree cutting for expansion of roads.
The logic that purposed expansion of road space was not part of the master plan is week. Has population expansion of capital been according to the master plan? Has the increased vehicles been according to the master plan?
The big question is have we ever planned the capital except the Lutein’s Delhi which is green, open, with well laid out four lane roads, without road space occupied with parked vehicles or hawkers. Rest of Delhi was never a planned city. That is why, in every few years trees are sacrificed to expand the roads. Citizens go to the court against that.
In Washington DC the total area is 31329 kilometer of which the public roads occupy 2,400 km. That is 7.9 % of the total area.
Area of Delhi is 2202256 kilometers and road length is 28508 kilometers that is 8.9%. So Delhi clearly needs better road planning.
The government has decided to redesign over 1,200 km of roads in the capital at a cost of around Rs 5,000 crore. A much needed and urgent step, but it has to be a cautious and honest step.
Its important that help is taken from international agencies, corruption is eliminated, citizens are taken into confidence, and all trees on the way are not cut but transplanted in denuded parts of Delhi Ridge under the vigilant eyes of citizen groups so that every tree survives.
Dr. Ms. Iqbal Malik
Founder & Director