What is Lal Dora Land?

The term “Lal Dora” first appeared in use in 1908. It is a name given to the portion of the village’s territory that is considered to be “Abadi” (Habitation). It was created exclusively for non-agricultural purposes. It was intended for the community to expand onto that portion of the land where the residents originally had their support systems, cattle, etc. To distinguish these locations from the agricultural property, the Land Revenue Department used to mark them with a Red Thread (Lal Dora in Hindi).

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18% of Chattarpur’s land is used for residential purposes by village residents. The rest is divided between farming land and Gram Sabha lands_©Vaishnavi Rathore

The Lal Dora land is exempt from the rules and regulations controlling buildings outlined in the Delhi Municipal Act. Since the concept of Lal Dora regions originated in Delhi, the city/state today has 362 Lal Dora villages that are a part of Lal Dora Zones. The initial master plan for Delhi was created in 1962, and it designated around 20 villages inside the urban area as urban villages, which presently number 135 in total. The Delhi Land Reforms Act states that private agricultural property may only be used for farming or closely related enterprises. Nevertheless, as the city expanded, unauthorized construction blossomed in these areas. Such structures were frequently the focus of complex legal disputes. As a result, unauthorized colonies were allowed to operate normally.

Shahpur Jat, Delhi

The South Delhi neighbourhood of Shahpur Jat is situated within Siri Fort, one of Delhi’s ancient capital cities. Although the majority of the hamlet has been urbanized into retail malls and residential complexes, a piece of it, bordered by the remains of an old fort, still exhibits the design of the ancient agrarian society.

Formerly inhabited by “Panwar Jats,” the village now houses a variety of smaller ethnic groups and cultures. Most immigrants here are from Bengal and Bihar, and they work as designers, artists, and locals who are now landlords. Before the government purchased their acreage for Delhi’s development in the 1950s and 1970s, the “Jats” were farmers and cattle farmers, leaving the Abadi region (habited land) precisely as it was. 

Economic Character of Shahpur Jat

The land was acquired in two stages: first in 1954 for the Panchsheel Park and Gulmohar Park development, and second in 1979 for the Asian Games Village building. The area was reduced from 34.02 hectares to 17.32 hectares between 1954 and 1979 and was declared an urban village. Rent rapidly became one of the easiest and safest methods to generate money after this acquisition, and it is currently the primary source of revenue in this region. Due to its lower rents compared to the surrounding area and its proximity to esteemed institutions like Jawaharlal Nehru University, Indian Institute of Technology and the National Institute of Fashion Technology, it has become a popular hub for startups, fashion design boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. The village’s exterior lanes are its busiest business areas because of the assortment of stores and cafés that have grown over time. 

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Mixed-use buildings with retail on ground_©gobanjare.com/2018/02/04/shahpur-jat-new-delhi

Hierarchy of Spaces

Offices often occupy the second and third floors of buildings. In contrast, cafés and retail establishments occupy the first level, and homes or other commercial enterprises, such as studios, printing facilities, real estate brokers, digital service providers, etc., occupy the remaining floors. With an average height of five to six storeys, the building spans from three to eight levels. The pattern of mix usage also alters as we move from the outside to the interior roads. These outer-facing streets are surrounded by inner lanes, which often rent at reduced rates to smaller eateries, cafés, general merchandise stores, dye shops, machine repair shops, boutiques, and cafes. These passageways offer a glimpse of a residential hamlet in contrast to the gentrified surrounding alleys. These structures predate the newly constructed front-facing lanes. They ascend higher and are denser. 

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Boutiques along Shahpur Jat lanes_©gobanjare.com/2018/02/04/shahpur-jat-new-delhi

The potential of Shahpur Jat

Shahpur Jat began to be considered a suitable location for the growth of this current market due to its proximity to Hauz Khas village and its affordable land availability. Villagers started renting out their land for business purposes, providing space for these projects at low prices, attracting more visitors, and transforming the town into a significant urban market shopping destination. A comprehensive migrant colony was established inside the village area when the landowners expanded their two-story residences up to 6-7 storeys and rented them out to industrial employees on a per-room basis. The balconies provide virtually little natural light, are built to ring the house and seem like street extensions. All amenities are located inside the residential area, allowing the urban village to function as a self-sufficient community.

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Vibrant Street Art in Urbanized Village_©Culture Trip

Bringing back the essence of Lal Dora Lands

 In the backdrop of widespread migration from rural to urban areas and the dearth of inexpensive homes and serviced land for various socioeconomic groups, informal urbanism evolved as an alternative method of city creation. Although informal urbanism takes many different forms, in most cases it results from cities’ inability to accommodate growth within a formal and planned urban framework. This is because, among other things, low-income populations are excluded from formal sector urbanization due to a lack of affordable housing options, insufficient building and planning regulations, and a lack of suitable housing financing. In many nations, informal urbanism has taken the lead in urbanization and is now largely the sole option for entering cities. 

How to bring back the real essence of  Lal Doras lands like Shahpur Jat , Delhi - Sheet
Informal Urbanism: Neighbourhood of Cabuçu in the city of São Paulo, Brazi_©Roberto Rocco

Therefore, the local area plans should achieve a thoughtful combination of residential, commercial, and institutional spaces to ensure the sustainable development of the village. They should provide enough space to relocate the existing and projected residential, commercial, institutional, and other villagers’ needs for the next 20 years, either in the village area itself or the surrounding area. The planned commercial activity needs to be acceptable and integrate the local populace in the development process by providing them with numerous employment opportunities and helping them raise their standard of living, level of income, and social standing.

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Dilli Haat by Archochm_©Andre Fanthome
Dilli Haat by Archohm_©Andre Fanthome

The village’s primary public space is its streets. The roadway is used for a wide variety of things. Narrow roads with erected structures produce an enclosure-like feeling. Since every building faces the street, safety is guaranteed. A suitable area should be set aside for the construction of the village haat, where the artisans can display their talents and have shops where they can sell their wares to promote traditional crafts. The complex can also have a food bazaar to draw customers and increase sales. Although village Abadi is primarily residential, it has traditionally practiced several livelihoods such as rearing cattle, utilizing ghanis to extract oil, producing metal things, carpentry, and other similar industries. This mixed land use issue must thus be handled differently than it would in a typical urban residential colony. The provision of municipal services, sanitary improvements, and environmental improvements will result in an observable value addition to the property and a rise in its market worth. 


Magicbricks Blog. (2021). Pros and Cons to invest in Lal Dora Land. [online] Available at: https://www.magicbricks.com/blog/pros-and-cons-to-invest-in-lal-dora-land/122466.html [Accessed 09 Nov. 2022].

Latest Real Estate News, Articles, Property Insights. (n.d.). What is Lal Dora land? [online] Available at: https://www.99acres.com/articles/lal-dora-land-bgid.html [Accessed 09 Nov. 2022].

The Indian Express. (2021). All land in Delhi villages under Lal Dora should be brought under DDA: NCR planning board. [online] Available at: https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/all-land-in-delhi-villages-under-lal-dora-should-be-brought-under-dda-ncr-planning-board-7481880/ [Accessed 10 Nov. 2022].

Report of Expert Cte. On Lal Dora REPORT OF THE EXPERT COMMITTEE ON LAL DORA AND EXTENDED LAL DORA IN DELHI. (2007). [online] Available at: https://mohua.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/laldora.pdf [Accessed 10 Nov. 2022].

CROSSING THE LAL DORA – 2017 Research Report. (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://s3files.core77.com/files/pdfs/2018/76325/781761_uofDLBxEe.pdf [Accessed 10 Nov. 2022].


Shivani Jadhav, a Mumbai-based architect, is attempting to explore architecture through words. She is passionate about discovering new perspectives on structures and bringing them to life through her writing. Her experiment focuses on the social, cultural, and philosophical aspects of architecture.