Water, City and Urban Planning : assessing the role of groundwater in urban development planning in Delhi

This paper emphasises that the quality of our lives is dependent on the quality of our
environment, which, in turn, is dependent on the quality of land use as a result of urban
planning. In the process of urbanisation, the subsurface environment, namely the presence or
absence of groundwater is a key factor. This paper examines the role of groundwater in urban
development and planning from the point of view of sustainability of the in-situ resource in
the long term as an important source to meeting increasing water requirements of urban
agglomeration. The study area for the paper is the National Capital Territory (NCT) Delhi and
its peri-urban areas.

The existing urban agglomeration of Delhi is increasingly dependent on groundwater extraction
to meet the constant water demand - supply gap. This is resulting in a rapid decline of the
groundwater table in the NCT Delhi. In terms of the available and utilisable groundwater for
domestic and non-domestic requirements, the existing city core as well as the peri-urban areas
of Delhi have fallen into the category of overdrawn groundwater resources.
The paper examines the stages and patterns of urban evolution in the Delhi metropolis and
its peri-urban areas and links the role of groundwater in urban development from the past
to the present. With the help of a case study -‘Dwarka sub-city’ within the immediate urban
extensions in NCT Delhi, the paper establishes the systemic role that groundwater plays in the
various stages of urban development and planning in NCT Delhi and its peri-urban areas. Based
on the findings, the paper suggests policy interventions in developing a land use strategy for
urban areas reflecting concerns of sustainable use of groundwater in Delhi.

The above-stated research has been conducted by the author for his doctoral thesis submitted
at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland and has, in-part been supported by the Centre
de Sciences Humaines, New Delhi.