Connaught Place Pedestrianisation: A Critical Analysis
The Indian government has decided to introduce the month of February as “Car Free” in CP or the “CP Pedestrianisation”. The initiative has attracted a lot of attention both positive and negative from people of different stratas. The idea is to see as to whether an initiative like this can help in controlling the growing levels of pollution in India, specifically Delhi and how the crowd can be provided a hassle free space to enjoy their outing through traffic management. However, the critical question that remains to be answered is whether this will work? Well let us see.
The Plight of Delhi
The “Dilwalon Ki Dilli”, though has attracted a large number of people from different parts of the world and exposed them to a rich intermix of cultures, but it has also projected a darker and detrimental side as well. The pollution levels of Delhi, currently have skyrocketed and made living extremely difficult even for small kids and the elderly. The Delhi Govt., being aware about the situation introduced the “Odd-Even” initiative. The first phase received a lot of appreciation, however, the second phase failed to attract the desired attention.
What has generally been seen regarding air quality management in Delhi is that most of the initiatives are short run in nature and they phase out over a course of time. There is a dire need to introduce a sustainable initiative which can help in providing long term solutions. In light of this there are some important factors that require attention:
a) Delhi is facing a problem of high traffic especially with the Gurugram and Ghaziabad connectivity. Traffic levels have risen exponentially over the years and have also become one of the primary causes of air-pollution.
b) The pedestrians, on the other hand do not have the sufficient space to walk freely as most of the footpaths are used for parking purposes or by the motor cyclists during heavy traffic hours.
Therefore, in such a situation, the idea of Pedestrianisation of CP is not bad. However, it dependents upon certain key factors to ensure that such an initiative becomes a successful long term effort in providing the pedestrians their space to travel freely as well as to curb the rising pollution levels of Delhi.
Logic of Pedestrianisation
The idea of Pedestrianisation is not new. Many developed nations have made use of this initiative for managing traffic levels and easy travelling for Pedestrians. Places like Camden Street in London, Boulevard Saint Laurent in Montreal, Canada and central district of Copenhagen, the Danish capital etc have been using the Pedestrianization initiative to improve their city’s conditions. Even in India, the very move has been adopted in Ponducherry where in Goubert Avenue that runs along the picturesque French Quarters is closed to motorized vehicles after 5 PM.
This move is also becoming a global trend as places in USA, Singapore, Germany etc are using this initiative extensively to curb the growing pollution levels.
The principle behind this move is to sensitize the public and make them understand that simple actions of theirs can help in bringing a larger change within the society. By controlling the traffic levels, it indirectly encourages the public to take out their vehicles. On top of that providing a traffic free space makes outdoor activities of the pedestrians hassle free and encourages them to be supportive towards the very or similar such initiatives.
Pedestrianisation does have brought about change in places where it has been introduced, however, it has also demanded a certain set of protocols that need to be followed. However, negligence and poor management has resulted in chaos. Therefore, pedestrianisation in any part of the globe requires expert planning and execution for its long term success.
Case of Delhi
The Pedestrianization initiative has been planned to be introduced at Connaught Place from the month of February. The inner and middle circle of CP’s business district, which attracts around 500,000 visitors a day, will be a“pedestrian-only” zone. The earlier decision was to test this initiative for 3 months, however, due to the protest by the traders association of CP, the authorities have expressed doubts and contemplated on cutting down the time-plan to days instead of months.
Introducing this initiative in Delhi and that too in a large business area like CP can be a difficulty. The place attracts a large number of people to explore different exquisite sites of Delhi and is also a centre for different professional activities. As a result, there is a big challenge in handling such a large crowd. Also there is a good number of vehicle population that is entirely dependent upon their personal cars for long distance movement. Encouraging them to take the alternative approach can in itself become a challenge. Lastly CP is a very large area and requires vehicular convenience to move around. Therefore, making it vehicle free especially for 3 months can be a quite challenging task.
The Authorities Proposition
The CP Pedestrianisation is a move by NDMC as mentioned will be a 3 months initiative unless and until new details are released. The authorities have planned to introduce it within CP’s inner circle. NDMC has proposed to introduce battery-operated vehicles and cycles-for-hire to get to the business district. Parking will be allowed in the outer circle and at Palika Bazaar. Also the automated parking lot at Baba Kharak Singh Marg too will be utilized.
The authorities have taken consideration and views of multiple experts and upon their advises, they have expressed that such an initiative will be a step towards a larger solution. The city is in dire need for more pedestrian zones. Pedestrianisation of middle and inner circle roads of Connaught Place will help in learning and then deciding on the scope of the programme for replication in the future as well. It can help in setting the trend for the future.
The Other Side of Story
The decision of CP Pedestrianisation has not gone down well with the traders, who say their business will take a hit. Instead of easing congestion,it would result in traffic jams in the Outer Circle all the way to Mandi House said the chairman of New Delhi Traders Association. The association has argued that since CP is too big, people especially kids and elderly will face a lot of hassle in moving from place to place. Also from the shopping point of view, people will face a lot of difficulties in carrying their personal items from place to place.
There also have been arguments that for certain small entrepreneurs and service related employees like petrol station employees, small stationary shops, fruit sellers etc, they will face a lot of problem as the level of crowd will be relatively less than expected.
Also in terms of parking space, a lot of unused space in Inner Circle CP will remain underutilized and chances can be of traffic congestion at the outer circle to secure a parking space.
In addition to that, the association also fears that there can be chances of poor management by the authority which will hinder the public’s interest in visiting CP especially during weekends, thereby, further leading to decline in sales.
As a result, the New Delhi Traders Association is advocating to prevent the pedestrianisation to take place.
The authorities are stating that in the past, MG Road in Gangtok and the Mall Road in Shimla have been very successful pedestrian streets. In Panjim, Goa, one of the main streets has been made a ‘NoMoZo’ or‘no motor zone’ for one day in the week. Further, on certain days of the week, there are weekly bazaars on different days indifferent parts of Delhi. On these days, the streets become completely pedestrianised. For instance, the weekly bazaar in Bhogal or Sheikh Sarai is a very popular event for the citizens to visit and pick up traditional items at reasonable prices. Therefore, they argue that the pedestrianisation of CP will not end up bad. Although they do agree that CP being a large business hub, long term management can be an issue,therefore, on the basis of the response of the people the initiative can be reduced from months to days.
Things to Keep in Mind
There is no doubt that the initiative of Pedestrianisation will bring about a qualitative change in the environment. Most importantly it will help in sensitizing the young folks who are the frequent visitors and customers about the growing problem of poor air quality management and encourage them to take collective action in improving the conditions. However certain points need to be kept in mind which are:
a) The initiative entirely depends upon effective management. The authorities, therefore, have to ensure that all the necessary services and aids needed for the pedestrians should be well in place and good in terms of frequency due to a healthy population number of Delhi.
b) In addition to this, micro based pedestrianization initiatives should be encouraged in other places so that more and more population is sensitized and chances of inconvenience are kept to minimum.
c) An entire street or area can be made completely pedestrianised and the other way is by making it a ‘no car’ zone on certain days of the week or at certain times of the day. This way, depending on the nature and intensity of the problem as well as other local conditions, one can evolve the strategy.
d) The process of pedestrianisation can also be introduced after certain time interval thereby making the initiative way more flexible and fluid.
e) A proper reporting of the nature of crowd coming to such locations has to be made and monitored so that with the changing conditions the right kind of assistance can be provided to anyone if required.