Change. A small yet powerful word; the only constant in this transient world. Our universe is constantly changing. If you zoom in a little, you’ll see that our capital is too. With a milestone set for the year 2021 to turn Delhi into a smart city, the infrastructural plan of the city is evolving on a daily basis. But the picture is not half as rosy as it seems. One thing that sprouts from change is a bigger word, Challenge. When changing a rigid system like the infrastructural plan of a city, especially a metropolitan, the challenges are all the more bigger.
Let’s work our way chronologically through the city’s infrastructural timeline and discuss the challenges as they come.
Smog in the City
The month of November in the city began on a rather misty note. No, not misty, foggy; no, not even foggy, smoggy. Yes that’s the word. The city was covered in a thick layer of smog for over a week, leading the authorities to declare an emergency in the capital and order closing of schools for a period of three days to protect children from its harmful effect. One might think how this is an infrastructural flaw? Isn’t this an environmental issue? Let’s refresh our perspectives. Yes, the smog is an environmental issue, but where does it come from? The source of its generation is the people of this city. The festival of light in the capital was rather a blurry one, but did that deter us from setting the rope on the end of a cracker on fire? No. While children couldn’t breathe and the air became poison, especially for people suffering from respiratory disorders, we were still happily burning our money to celebrate an occasion. This sounds like a rather sadistic gift to the city that has nurtured us with abundance and continues to do so, but who cares? Let’s celebrate! Boom!
Now let’s take an instance of layering the city with an extensive transit network; the Delhi Metro. While the project is an emblem of the city’s development, and is synonymous with convenience, connectivity and celerity, its construction is one of the biggest challenges posed to the city. On an average, it takes more than 10 months to complete the construction of a single metro station, and in that duration, the construction becomes an obstruction. While the Metro lines seep into the crevices of this city, reaching out to many people, the lanes of these parts of the city are extremely narrow. This is already a challenge in itself, and when topped with the growing urbanisation, it becomes a hard nut to crack; rather an enormous nut to crack. This, when teamed with poor equipments and material, lead to fatal results. On 19th October, 2008, a girder launcher and an extension of the Blue Line fell on passing vehicles in a cramped street of Laxmi Nagar, killing the driver of the vehicle and a labourer. In a similar incident in 2009, a section of the bridge on the Central Secretariat – Badarpur corridor collapsed, claiming six lives and injuring fifteen. More than a hundred lives have been lost since the inception of the construction.
Death traps and waterlogs
Talking about connectivity brings us to our next topic of discussion – the roads, or the lack of them. It’s a shame to think that one of the fastest growing economies of the world witnesses more than 10, 000 road accidents every year due to potholes and poorly constructed speed breakers. The saddest part is that there is hardly any investigation done in such cases because the case will be made against the Public Works Department of Delhi, a powerful government body. Chances of winning favour are bleak in such cases and the wrong gets away with wrong. Coming back to the prime topic, roads play a pivotal role in connecting the suburbs to the main city and transportation throughout the capital. Despite being an integral part of the city’s landscape, road do not get the eminence they truly deserve. The way they are constructed works in favour of damage and a single spell of rain or even a broken water pipeline can create havoc. This, when teamed with a poor drainage system, is a recipe for disaster. One cannot forget the monster traffic jam on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway that brought both the cities to a standstill. The average speed was about 0.5 kmph, which roughly translates to about 2km in 4 hours! Talk about the city’s love for snails! The traffic eased out after nearly 24 hours on 29th July, 2016.
The National Capital Territory of Delhi is a masterpiece in making. The process of turning it into one of the finest cities in the world requires meticulous planning and tremendous hard work, but it does not end there. The first step is to eliminate roadblocks, especially the ones that root back to basic human tendencies. One can not burst crackers and still have an amazing feat at celebration, use good quality material and equipments to ensure speedy construction and safety of lives that go into it, de-clog pipelines and help rain-showers truly refresh the city and of course, take the responsibility they are assigned for, and live it responsibly. The city wants to change, for better, for you. Encourage it, as a citizen and as an indispensable part of the system.