The Greater Story

  • Abhishek Behl
  • India
  • Feb 15, 2013



Gurgaon and Greater NOIDA live and breathe in the same Region (NCR), but their origin and subsequent development has forced the cities to assume different characters. While Gurgaon represents the might of private builders, and has real estate driven growth, Greater NOIDA is the product of a bureaucratic system that is often dysfunctional and inert in its functioning, but has managed to deliver a city with a futuristic outlook

The success of the Greater NOIDA experiment perhaps lies in the creation of an independent Authority manned by able administrators, who were given a comparatively free hand in planning and decision making by the political establishment. Gurgaon was primarily handed over to private builders – turning it into a maze of glitzy malls, shining offices, and gated residential colonies. This has unfortunately led to a failure of urban planning, and the pangs of growth and greed are now being felt across the City – that is crawling due to inadequate and poor infrastructure.

Greater NOIDA stands out in stark comparison, as it has a comprehensive Master Plan for an urban conglomeration. City watchers say that when Gurgaon was witnessing a construction frenzy led by builders, Greater NOIDA was developing civic infrastructure – that includes a solid road network, drainage, sewage, water supply and underground power infrastructure. This has taken it miles ahead as far as urban facilities are concerned.

Yogender Sinha, a senior official of the Greater NOIDA Authority, says that the creation of an independent authority to manage the controlled area has been a master stroke for the urban development process. “The idea was to promote a planned development, integrated with industrial development, for achieving the NCR Plan objective of dispersal of population and economic activities outside Delhi. It also aimed at low density development, coupled with regional level institutional and recreational activities to serve the entire Region, and to create ample work opportunities,” says Sinha.

The Greater NOIDA Authority acquired around 90,000 hectares of land from farmers, and developed the key infrastructure; and only after that was it given to private developers for building residential colonies. In Gurgaon, the reverse has happened, as the Department of Town and Country Planning issued licences wherever these were applied for, and the developers kept on building apartments irrespective of whether the buyers would be able to commute, live and breathe in that space. It is perhaps for this reason that increasingly the residents in Gurgaon are out on the streets fighting both the builders as well as the authorities, over poor external and internal civic infrastructure

Greater NOIDA, in comparison, is a picture of serenity. Sinha says that the road network has been planned in a way that the area does not require signals, and nowhere are the roads choked. The minimum width of the sector roads in Greater NOIDA is 12 meters – more than Gurgaon. Every plot is park facing, and sewers and water pipelines have been provided on both sides of the road, so that these are not dug up every time a house owner needs a connection. Pollution is far less as compared to other areas in the NCR, as there are more green spaces, and power supply is adequate.

Greater NOIDA, which has close to 3 lakhs population – and is projected to go to 12 lakhs by 2021 – has planned green space that accounts for almost 16 per cent of the area developed by the Authority

Arvind Mohan, an official, says that the most important facet is a very strong monitoring system, which ensures that works awarded by the Authority—whether these are related to sanitation, sewage, maintaining parks or other works—are executed as per the laid-down standards. “There is a team of 20 officials who keep a check on the ongoing maintenance work,” he asserts, while pointing out that the multiple agencies in Gurgaon are weak in this respect. His view is supported by a former Haryana bureaucrat M.K Midha, who admits that the Millennium City has to do a lot of learning and catching up. “Gurgaon today has grown so much so fast that it needs an overarching body that can co-ordinate the functioning of various agencies. Gurgaon has a far better location and proximity to Delhi, that gives it an advantage – but we will lose it in the times to come,” he warns. The monitoring process of various agencies in Gurgaon needs a lot of overhauling, he adds.

Clearly, the localisation of the Authority is key to not only the resolution of Greater NOIDA’s problems, but in also looking at them holistically. It is clear that while the Greater NOIDA Authority plans for the long term, and resolves the present while sitting in the City, Gurgaon’s over-dependence on Chandigarh, and the political mood of the masters, has led to lopsided planning and numerous operational problems. Nisha Singh, Ward Councillor, and an activist, recently sparred with the Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda during a conclave in Gurgaon over the lack of powers of MCG. She told the Chief Minister that MCG has not been able to perform because the files get stuck in Chandigarh, and Councillors do not have any powers to get the work done. 

In comparison, Sinha says that the Greater NOIDA Authority is fairly autonomous: to plan for development, carry out maintenance works, and ensure that the systems work properly. In fact, throughout Greater NOIDA it is hard
to find open sewage, or garbage and trash lying in different parts of the City, or stray animals, or potholed roads like Gurgaon
. While Gurgaon is facing major trouble over the toll plaza, and it is a nightmare to reach home in the evening, the drive from many parts of Delhi to NOIDA and Greater NOIDA is far smoother. Although there are traffic bottlenecks, the decision to connect Greater NOIDA with the Metro network, at a cost of around Rs. 5,000 crores, is likely to act as a major catalyst.

Compared to the major infrastructure projects that have come up, and are coming up, in Greater NOIDA and the surrounding areas, a number of projects in Gurgaon are stuck due to various issues. The Northern Peripheral Road, which promises to connect the City with Dwarka, is stuck; the work on the Southern Peripheral Road is going on a snail’s pace; and a recent RTI has revealed that the work on the prestigious KMP Expressway is almost stalled. The DMIC Corridor projects, such as the Logistics Hub at Rewari and the Convention Centre at Manesar, are also moving at a very slow pace. Midha suggests that the major infrastructure projects in and around Gurgaon will have to be accelerated to give it an edge over its neighbour in the NCR.

While Gurgaon may not be great on planning, a HUDA official says that the decision to develop the new sectors has been modelled on Greater NOIDA, and individual companies have been asked to develop the internal sectors’ infrastructure. The master network will be created by the government agencies. But here too the developers have outpaced the authorities;
a large number of real estate projects have been launched and completed in Gurgaon II (new sectors), even as the provision for water, power and sanitation is yet to be created

It is here that the importance of an overarching Agency, which builds and monitors, comes to the fore. Rajesh Gautam, a resident of Greater Gurgaon, says that Greater NOIDA (GNIDA) officials ensure that the builders do not go haywire, and stick to a plan. “It is ensured that infrastructure is available before residents move in, else there will be chaos as is happening in Gurgaon,” he asserts.

Sinha says that the Greater NOIDA Authority Master Plan is so comprehensive that it even includes the signage network; no one can display hoardings anywhere without approval. “Only the original allotees can display their boards,” he adds. The residents of Greater NOIDA are also happy that water supply is regular and adequate, and they need not install pumps and water purifiers to use it. Pawan Singh, a senior journalist, says that a proper planning of the requirements has been done, and recently three underground reservoirs were built to cater to the future demand.

Although Greater NOIDA does not get 24x7 power supply, the power cables have been laid underground, and are not seen hanging – as is in the case with Gurgaon. Interestingly, the Haryana government had last year shelved the plan for underground cabling in Gurgaon II (new sectors), on cost considerations. So even Millennium II now lags behind Greater NOIDA! 

When asked about the decision-making process and planning in the Authority, Sinha says that the reduced bureaucracy has led to improved functioning. The decisions are taken much faster, as the CEO is the fourth level in the overall hierarchy, and is very approachable. “The daily problems are resolved at the middle level, and mostly serious and planning level issues are taken to the highest level, as there is clear delegation of powers,” says Mohan. On the issue of corruption and political interference, the officials get a little circumspect, but assert that it is much less compared to other cities and organisations.

However, some problems do plague Greater NOIDA. Like Gurgaon, it is also finding it tough to assimilate the villages and the local population, which is almost one third of the total. Villages have been concretised, and are heavily populated, as in Gurgaon – because the housing for EWS seems to have gone for a toss in Greater NOIDA as well. A large number of industry workers seem to be living in these villages. Sinha claims the villages are being helped by the Authority, for improving infrastructure, schools and health facilities. However, on the ground the change in not much visible. The recent land acquisition issue has also brought the Authority in direct conflict with the villagers, who had refused to sell their land. It was only after the NCR Planning Board approved the Master Plan that the Supreme Court allowed development of new projects. Sinha admits that land acquisition has set the Authority five years behind schedule, as a number of plans and proposals have slowed down. But he says that the area will rebound, adding that such problems exist everywhere.

 Further, the transport system is quite inadequate, and residents say it is very difficult to travel between NOIDA and Greater NOIDA. Pranav Gupta, a student who attends a college in the Knowledge Park, which has emerged as a major education hub, says that travelling is a major hazard. “We never get buses, and if one gets them there is constant haggling over fare. The seats are uncomfortable, and buses are jam-packed,” he asserts. While in Gurgaon the traffic police is overwhelmed with too much traffic, the
roads are emptier in Greater NOIDA. Newly developed residential sectors, educational institutions and hospitals are not adequately connected.

The Knowledge Park at Greater NOIDA has almost 113 educational institutions, which run numerous colleges, providing education to almost 1 lakh students. Devender Singh, a resident, says that the Authority has done well to divide the area into industrial, commercial, and institutional quarters, while giving a good weightage to greenery and other facilities. “In comparison, Gurgaon is far behind, as it does not have a well-defined land usage,” he says.

Sarika Bhatt, an urban planner, agrees to this, and complains that in Gurgaon wherever there is land, real estate developers are allowed to build on it, irrespective of its effect on the immediate neighbourbood. Right in the middle of commercial areas you will find apartments, and office cabs can be seen zipping in residential colonies, as a major software park comes up suddenly, she says. The rampant changes in the Gurgaon Master Plan, which has seen three notifications in the past couple of years, is also cited as an example as how planning should not be done.

Urban experts aver that with Greater NOIDA coming up with a knowledge hub, it will put a question mark over the proposed education city being developed in Sonipat. In addition, the various proposed hubs along the KMP will also be affected, as the road itself is yet in progress. 

Bhatt says that Gurgaon was built first and planned later – akin to a process called retrofitting. Experts agree and say that recent projects like Rapid Metro, conversion of a sector road into a Freeway, the building of master sewerage pipe lines, upgradation of power infrastructure, and new water storage structures—all coming up after the City is bursting at its seams—are part of this retrofitting. Statistics show that while property prices in Gurgaon are still rising, new jobs are not coming. Many would be surprised to know that NOIDA has a job growth rate of almost 14 per cent.
The industrial unrest in major industries in Gurgaon has also added to the problems, as some of multi-nationals are preferring to go to other states – and NOIDA is also an option

The onset of expensive realty, even higher rate of rentals, and high cost of living has turned Gurgaon into a very costly city. In a recent interview, Xerox MD Rajat Jain, astonished at the high cost of living here, said that this City is even more expensive than Mumbai. Jobs particularly related to BPOs are also moving out to low cost destinations, because of these reasons, said Bhupinder Singh, CEO of Serco. The departure of some companies has even helped NOIDA and Greater NOIDA, as infrastructure is a lot better there, the cost of office space still less, rentals comparatively low, while the daily needs prices are almost at par.

Gurgaon scores over Greater NOIDA in lifestyle. It has a score of malls, fine dining restaurants, pubs, clubs and golf courses that cater to a population looking for an international lifestyle. The City also has a per capita income which is almost 40 per cent more than NOIDA, and industry watchers say that it will take a lot of effort to attract the entrenched multinationals to NOIDA. Real estate veterans in Gurgaon further say that success of a city depends on three things – location, location, and location. The Millennium City is fortunately located near the international airport

It seems that while Gurgaon is happy to rest on its laurels, Greater NOIDA is planning well ahead. In terms of connectivity, the Taj Expressway, a solid rail network system (including the Metro), and the Faridabad-NOIDA-Ghaziabad Expressway will open up the area very well. This is apart from the great City infrastructure. The competition is on, and it remains to be seen whether the empowered bureaucrats who plan to the T, will win the race – or will the might of the private developers prevail


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Posted Comments
  • what about water level in new gurgaon Govt not able to provide water 24 x 7 in old gurgaon even

  • rohit Feb 22, 2013

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