Isn‘t There Enough Land? Spatial Assessments of ’Slums’ in New Delhi
A narrative that large, growing numbers of the urban poor have encroached upon swathes of well-located land in the city has become a kind of common sense, reflected everywhere from public opinion to legal judgments and media reports. Is it, however, true? No data – public or otherwise – is cited or offered as the basis of this impression of large scale spatial footprint of JJ Clusters in Delhi. This paper directly addresses this gap. It measures the extent of land under JJ Clusters in New Delhi. Despite the language of “encroachment,” and the sense of widespread land grab, JJ clusters are on a minute portion of land in the city – no more than 0.6% of total land area, and no more than 3.4% of land zoned as ‘residential’ in the 2021 Delhi Master Plan. This very small percentage of land supports no less than 11-15% but possibly up to 30% of the city’s population. We argue that this data urgently calls for using governance and planning mechanisms to make more land available for low income housing in Delhi, including both giving rights to recognising existing JJ Clusters and expanding the footprint of land reserved for additional affordable housing.