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Delhi's growth and decline

A K Bhattacharya | April 28, 2004

The city of Delhi has grown at an enormous pace in the last 10 years. A Business Standard study establishes this quite convincingly.

To begin with, it points out that the city's population has grown by more than 50 per cent during the last 10 years to the current population level of over 1.6 crore (16 million).

This growth -- estimated at around 3.8 per cent per annum during the 1990s compared to the annual growth rate of 1.9 per cent for the whole country -- is primarily attributed to the large-scale migration the city has seen in the last decade. As a result, the rise in the density of population in the capital city of India has also been very rapid.

Today, it is more than 10,000 persons per sq km in Delhi, compared to about 7,000 persons 10 years ago. Now, that is a growth, which can really stretch the social and economic infrastructure of any city to its limits.

For instance, Chandigarh had a population density of 5,632 persons in 1991 compared to Delhi's 6,352.  In 2001, Chandigarh's population density went up 40 per cent to 7,903, while Delhi's saw a much higher increase to 9,294.

Delhi has also witnessed a qualitative change in its consumption pattern, which is in line with a sharp drop in the number of people below the poverty line.

Against 15 per cent in 1994, the number of persons living below the poverty line today has declined to a little more than 8 per cent today.  It is equally true that this period also saw a rapid rise in the number of urban rich in Delhi.

The number of credit cards registered in the capital city went up by 62 per cent to 11 lakh (1.1 million), the number of airline passengers, arriving or departing from the city, increased by 73 per cent to 28,500 per day and the number of liquefied petroleum gas connections went up from 865,000 in 1991 to 36 lakh (3.6 million) in 2004.

There are other equally significant pointers to Delhi's growing prosperity.  Delhi has over 32 lakh mobile phone users, far in excess of its total fixed telephone line connections estimated at 24 lakh (2.4 million).  Delhi is perhaps the only city that can take such credit.

In 1994, television companies sold only 154,000 sets in the capital. Ten years later, their annual sales of TV sets have gone up to 525,000 sets.  The number of hotels has also seen a sharp rise in this period -- up from 50 in 1994 to 72 today.

The good news of Delhi's growing prosperity, however, stops here. Take a closer look at some other numbers, you will realise why Delhi's infrastructure is so overburdened and the quality of life has deteriorated so rapidly over the last few years.

For instance, the total length of roads in Delhi increased to 28,500 km by 2001-02.  Mind you, this was only 15 per cent more than the 24,645 km of roads that were available to vehicular traffic in the capital in 1994.

True, the average length of roads per 100 sq km (1,922 km) is still way above the national average. But the additional pressure Delhi's roads had to withstand in this period has to be seen to be believed.

In the last 10 years, the population of cars in Delhi has more than doubled to 11.56 lakh (1.15 million) in 2004. The number of buses has also nearly doubled to 53,000 in this period.  The rate of growth of other vehicles that ply on the roads has been even higher than those witnessed for cars and buses.

In other words, Delhi's civic administrators have merrily pumped in more buses and Delhi's residents have started driving more cars and other private vehicles, making the roads more congested and the environment more polluted than ever.

It is only in the last few years that the authorities have realised the urgent need for a mass rapid transport system and the Delhi Metro will hopefully improve the conditions when its first phase is completed by 2005.

Take a look at another key infrastructure area -- water. In 1994, there were 10.98 lakh (1.09 million) water connections provided by the civic authorities. Ten years later, the number of such connections has grown by just 3 per cent.

What about water supply through the city's piped network? That was worse. Total water supply in the capital in 2002-03 was estimated at 9,942 lakh kilolitres, compared to 9,855 lakh kilolitres in 1996-97.

So, how did the rising population of Delhi meet its water requirements? There are no figures. But more and more residents of Delhi are now using ground water to meet their basic requirements. The bottled water companies are doing roaring business as the civic authorities have failed to meet the water needs of the city.

There is no doubt that Delhi is a prosperous city. But take a closer look at its basic infrastructure like transport and water, you will realise that in spite of so many positive indicators of growth and prosperity, the city is facing an inevitable decline.

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thanks to our politicians greediness for votes and not their duties, the situation doesnt improve

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