The city of Delhi has a transportation problem. The streets are crowded and dangerous, and with 1,100 new vehicles being added to the roads each day the city is suffering from the consequences. Last year, New Delhi was rated the most polluted city in the world by the World Health Organization, with nearly 3 times the particulate matter of Beijing. Noise levels throughout the city consistently exceed regulations set by the Indian Central Pollution Control Board, and heavy traffic means increased travel times and perilous pedestrian conditions. Even walking the last mile from a bus stop to a destination has become a game of chance.
At the same time, the river upon which the city was founded, the Yamuna (a main tributary of the Ganges), has been polluted to the point where it has become little more than a glorified sewer drain. Illegal settlements without sewage systems pollute the river directly, and even within the regulated systems, 17 sewage drains empty directly into the Yamuna. For a city already struggling with water shortages, polluting a main water source is akin to throwing salt into a wound. However, a proposal by Dehli-based Morphogenesis Architects attempts to tackle all of these issues through the revitalization of the river and its canals, known as nullahs.
To restore these nullahs and improve the transportation network of the city, Morphogenesis suggests a multi-step process. First, they call for the immediate end to the practice of slabbing over the nullahs. This is often done as a quick, clumsy method of hiding the filth from the nullahs. Instead, the nullahs should be cleaned and existing land from the mostly dry riverbeds recycled. To do this, the design plans to plant natural filtration systems consisting of wetland organisms and install localized sewage treatment plants at points where refuse is currently entering the nullahs. These treated waters will replenish the natural aquifer below Delhi and recharge the Yamuna River.
Next, the plan calls for small interventions placed throughout the city to create a contiguous, sustainable identity through the urban fabric. To connect these interventions and the various nullahs, interstitial spaces, such as old alleyways and service roads no longer in use, should be reclaimed and redesigned to act as pedestrian and cycle pathways. This network is designed to be integrated with the existing transportation infrastructure as well as existing sites of social, cultural and natural historical heritage throughout the city. With the increased traffic and attention, these sites could become prime candidates for restoration and renewal.
While this solution may sound like a pipe dream out of the economic capabilities of the city, Morphogenesis believes it can be done for less than the current plan to clean up the river, the Yamuna Action Plan. While that plan consists of two phases totaling 68 billion rupee (roughly one billion US dollars), Morphogenesis believes their design could be implemented for between 7.5 billion and 10 billion rupee. Support for their plan has already begun circulating through Indian media sources, so the necessary funding may soon be attainable, and Delhi's citizens may be able to safely enjoy their waterfront again.