Driving change in New Delhi

Sheila Dikshit, the second woman chief minister of Delhi has been relentless in driving efforts to make New Delhi more sustainable. Awarded a Special Mention for the 2010 Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, Sheila shares the government’s fierce strategies and strong citizen partnership to make the city more liveable.

Sheila Dikshit

Since being awarded a Special Mention for the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2010, how has the experience shaped your efforts in developing Delhi?

Sheila Dikshit (SD): As the capital city of the largest democratic nation, we felt honoured to be shortlisted in the 2010 Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize. Delhi's participation in the Lee Kuan Yew World city Prize provided a unique opportunity to understand the initiatives undertaken by other great cities and enabled us to assess the adequacy of various initiatives started in the city. Despite the growing population of Delhi from in-migration, we have been motivated to make the city sustainable and comfortable for all residents and visitors. The learning experience during the entire phase of award period drives us to speed up our efforts to making Delhi a world class city.

Making New Delhi more sustainable and habitable has been one of the major challenges of the city. What are some of the key strategies to address this?

SD: Sustainability in the face of rapid growth is one of the biggest challenges faced by many mega cities around the world. A key strategy for New Delhi is to provide a favourable economic climate with the right policies to fuel economic growth and generate enough job opportunities for all. Beyond this, the city also has to constantly strengthen its social sector facilities in health and education and ensure there is enough housing especially for the less privileged population.

Delhi has been constantly striving to take adequate measures to contain the emissions. Pollution from vehicles is now better contained with the introduction of CNG for all public transport. Today, almost 160,000 vehicles in Delhi are running on CNG. The introduction of the metro has also brought about a significant change in public transport. Besides providing a fast, safe, air-conditioned and modern city transport, the Metro has contributed to curbing pollution levels.

Delhi is also fortunate to have a large green cover. For the past ten years, we have been relentless in our efforts to increase the green cover in the city. Every year we have a campaign to plant a million saplings during the monsoon season, where we plant almost 15 million saplings throughout the city with help from various local communities. Delhi is the only city in the country which has developed 42 city forests.

You have said that “harnessing renewable energy is a must for Delhi….” What are the efforts made in this area?

SD: An energy efficiency and renewable energy management centre has been set up under the department of environment to drive the implementation of renewable energy programmes. Some initiatives are to offer subsidies and introduce energy-saving regulations particularly in the area of encouraging the installation of solar water heating systems. To date, 5.25 million solar water heaters have been installed in all hotels, hospitals, commercial and government buildings.

In addition, alternative energy sources are being integrated into the existing power grid, making it available to many people in Delhi. A 100 KWp capacity Solar PV Power plant and a 30 KWp Solar Power plant are being installed at two government buildings with an investment of around Rs. 2.5 crore. The Delhi Administration has also approved bio-fuel production from bio-degradable waste by giving fiscal incentives to 33% of plant costs. Thus far, a total of 12 sites have been selected for the installation of kitchen waste-based bio gas plants.

The Bhagidari or Citizen Government Partnership in 2000 fostered a closer partnership between citizen groups and the administration. Tell us more about this initiative.

SD: Bhagidari was started as an attempt to address the deadlock in governance by involving different stakeholders as partners ranging from Residents Welfare, Market Traders and Industrial Associations and village groups. Such partnerships promote citizen participation and encourage government responsiveness. This synergy offers the opportunity to learn constantly by virtue of the involvement of the stakeholders in the growth process.

Service delivery and responses have become much better when solutions are worked out and implemented through organised collaborative arrangements between representatives of citizen groups, government officials, and civic authorities. The principles of multi-stakeholders’ collaboration and large group dynamics is effective in developing joint-ownership of the transformation process.

Both government officials and citizens have realised the importance of community participation in areas like water management, rainwater harvesting, water and energy conservation, the collection of house tax revenues, maintenance of community parks, halls and public places and waste management. Citizens’ awareness and response has been necessary in helping to maintain important infrastructure like flyovers, Bus Que Shelters, footpaths and the Metro Rail.

As a leader of Delhi for more than two decades, what are some of the major transformation efforts you are most proud of?

SD: The strong partnership formed between government and people through Bhagidari has resulted in Delhi’s significant transformation and I am proud of that.
The conversion of public transport and the commercial vehicles (buses, autos, taxis etc.) to CNG was a major effort that has resulted in a reduction of air pollution substantially. With the phasing out of lead in gasoline from 2000, there has been a significant reduction in lead emissions and associated health problems.

Making Delhi one of the greenest capital in the world is also one major achievement by this Government. The Bhagidari process has facilitated the expansion of forest cover in Delhi. The Government provides free saplings and encourages citizen organisations under Bhagidari to help in planting the saplings and looking after them. These initiatives have resulted in a significant increase in Delhi’s forest cover from 26km2 in 1998 to around 300km2 today. O

This article was first published in February 2012. All images contained within this page are used with license and shall not be copied, modified, or reproduced.

Sheila Dikshit

Sheila Dikshit

Sheila Dikshit was the Chief Minister of Delhi from 1998 to 2013, and the longest serving Chief Minister for a period of 15 years. In 2008, she was awarded the Best Chief Minister of India by Journalist Association of India.