The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has announced a Rs 200 billion plan to decongest Delhi, prompted by increasing emphasis on pollution abatement and traffic reduction. The plan will complement the ongoing big-ticket projects such as the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways, which aim to divert traffic away from the city. The plan is to be executed by NHAI, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the Delhi government, and the Noida and Greater Noida authorities.
The congestion problem
There are about 9 million vehicles currently registered in Delhi. On an average, the city witnesses the registration of about 1,500 new cars per day. In addition to the existing vehicle ownership, about 200,000 outbound vehicles pass through the city every day. As per a research document published in 2009, it was estimated that Delhi lost Rs 115 million per day due to traffic congestion alone. Today, the loss estimate would be much higher given the increase in vehicles over the past seven years.
NHAI’s plan involves the construction of roads, elevated corridors, flyovers and underpasses/ tunnels comprising a total length of 301 km in various districts of Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) – Haryana (13 districts), Uttar Pradesh (seven) and Rajasthan (two).
According to the proposal, eight radial corridors, which will connect the Outer Ring Road with the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways, are planned to be constructed. The plan aims to decongest settlement areas by constructing elevated corridors or by rerouting networks by developing a greenfield alignment. “Decongesting Delhi is the need of the hour and this plan may go a long way in easing the unmanageable traffic on Delhi-NCR roads,” said Raghav Chandra, chairman, NHAI at the launch of the project in April 2016.
In addition, new links have also been planned by NHAI to decongest the Delhi-Gurgaon section of National Highway (NH)-8. These are the Vasant Kunj-Mehrauli Gurgaon (MG) Road-NSG Gate stretch on NH-8; the Ambience Mall-MG Road stretch; the Mahipalpur bypass including a 2.5 km tunnel; the Kherki Daula toll plaza to Shiv Murti on NH-8 via the Dwarka Expressway and Dwarka for which the DDA has already given its approval; and the 11 Murti to Dhaula Kuan stretch. Moreover, improvement of junctions has also been identified to decongest the Delhi-Gurgaon section. These include the construction of flyovers and underpass at Hero Honda Chowk, IFFCO Chowk, Signature Chowk and Rajiv Chowk, as well as elevated U-turns at Shankar Chowk and Ambience Mall.
Besides, NHAI will also undertake the Urban Extension Road (UER) I and UER II projects. While UER I will connect Rajokri, Bijwasan, Najafgarh, NH-1, NH-8 and NH-10, UER II will improve connectivity between Vasant Kunj in South Delhi (through the existing Dwarka Link Road) and Najafgarh linking NH-1, NH-8 and NH-10. In addition, the Kalindi bypass over the Yamuna river will provide an alternative to NH-2 and help decongest the busy Ashram Chowk in South Delhi.
One of the key challenges in implementing the project will be coordination among different stakeholders. Since multiple state governments will be involved, the project is likely to be prone to procedural delays. Further, arranging funds for such a large project will be a challenge for the authorities. In addition, acquiring land in urban areas as well as the high cost associated with this will also be a major challenge. The project still is at a nascent stage and requires extensive deliberation by various stakeholders including citizens, government agencies, consultants, contractors, etc. Therefore, it is expected to take a significant amount of time before we witness actual development. Further, the government needs to look at other options to reduce congestion and lay greater stress on mobility plans based on mass transit systems.