Within eight years, Delhi is expected to surpass Tokyo to become the largest megalopolis in the world, making it the epicenter of a global phenomenon: Fifteen years ago, most of the world’s population lived in the countryside, and today, most live in cities. The United Nations says two-thirds of people will live in urban areas by 2050. Delhi is one of the most extreme barometers of this transformation.

Every two decades or so since 1962, the official planning organization of Delhi has developed a master plan intended to guide the future development of the city. Last year marked the end of Delhi’s Master Plan for 2021, which was adopted in 2007 with hopes of “obliterating the slums, taming the traffic and importing a Manhattan-like skyline.” But architects, urban planners and other experts say Delhi’s plan has remained mostly on paper. Understanding Delhi’s present and future requires looking beyond the city proper, toward the complex ecosystem growing around it.

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