The Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Project has initiated the conservation and development of urban heritage of Delhi. Apart from carrying out meaningful conservation efforts, this project has started various programmes which aim to cater to the needs of the local community and also ensure their participation in renewal process
Indian cities are growing exponentially to meet the evergrowing demand of its urban population. For settlement government is adopting various sustainable urban development models. But these so called urban development models are in fact the cause of further urban problems and loss of heritage. India has always been rich in its cultural heritage but efforts to conserve its heritage sites have been weak and extremely limited which led to destruction of many historical monuments. The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and the various state archeological departments have been successful in protecting only 10,000 monumental structures in total, which is just a small fraction of our rich heritage. One such PPP model is being implemented in heart of Delhi.
The Nizamuddin basti area is a dense accumulation of medieval monuments in the country but with the passage exponentially to meet the evergrowing demand of its urban population. For settlement government is adopting various sustainable urban development models. But these so called urban development models are in fact the cause of further urban problems and loss of heritage. India has always been rich in its cultural heritage but efforts to conserve its heritage sites have been weak and extremely limited which led to destruction of many historical monuments. The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and the various state archeological departments have been successful in protecting only 10,000 monumental structures in total, which is just a small fraction of our rich heritage. One such PPP model is being implemented in heart of Delhi. The Nizamuddin basti area is a dense accumulation of medieval monuments in the country but with the passage of time, condition of these historical monuments is deteriorating. The basti comprises 1500 households with population of approximately 20,000, primarily of lower income group. The living conditions are not good in the basti and it also lacks in basic infrastructure. Understanding the need of preservation of these monuments and need of socio-economic development in the basti, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has unified the three historical sites, the Humyun’s Tomb, Nizamuddin Basti and Sunder Nursery into a unique heritage, under the Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Project. Keeping in mind the landscape of the area, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) through its agency Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has embarked upon the Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Project under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with various organizations like Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Central Public Work Department (CPWD), Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).
The project not only aims to revitalize the urban heritage through urban renewal but also aims at socio-economic empowerment of the community by addressing the basic needs of health, sanitation and education. The project area covers 250 acres including basti and heritage sites in the heart of Delhi in which AKTC has assisted in conserving 45 monuments, revitalized nine Mughal gardens, 175 acres of green space is restored and 70-acre area of Sunder Nursery landscaped as a city park.
Revitalization of the Humayun’s Tomb complex
The Hazrat Nizamuddin area has always been an epitome of prestigious cultural heritage with various historic monuments such as tombs, wells, gardens, baolis, serais, pavilions, enclosure walls, gateways and mosques of Mughal emperors. But with the passage of time these heritage sites have degraded and the measures taken to restore them were not appropriate. The Humayun’s tomb is one of the famous heritage sites of the area which is a major source of revenue through tourism. So, need for the renewal of Humayun’s tomb gained even more importance.
To extend the heritage property boundary a Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Value (RSOUV) was submitted to the UNESC0 World Heritage Centre in February 2015by ASI and AKTC. Finally, the World Heritage Committee approved the extension of property boundaries of world heritage site from 26 acres to 53.62 acres which now includes Isa Khan’s tomb garden, Bu Halima tomb garden, Nila Gumbad, Afsarwala tomb and mosque enclosure, Arab Serai Bazar. After approval, the 40 arches of enclosure wall which had collapsed were reconstructed. The upper plinth of the tomb made up of sandstone was lifted and re-laid to provide appropriate slopes and original layout and 12,000 sqm of lower plinth was restored to the original architectural details. To pause accelerated deterioration major steps have been undertaken like one million kilos of cement was removed from the roof, terrace was repaired to the original level, 760 sqm of the external marble dome surface was repaired, inner dome was cleaned, repaired and plastered with lime mortar and the architectural integrity of the chambers and alcoves were restored to the original glory. As a result of the thunderstorm on 30th May, 2014, the 18 feet tall finial at the Humayun’s tomb collapsed. Its repair commenced at the end of 2015.
In order to facilitate access of visitors to the world heritage site of Humayun’s tomb, construction of the bus parking area started. Phase-1 of the construction work commenced at the end of 2015. Retaining wall of the parking bays and random rubble stone boundary have been completed. Low line earth was filled and compacted to ensure appropriate slopes for the rain water.
The Sunder Nursery Landscape Master plan consists of Azimganj garden, Canna garden, Bird habitat, Bonzai house, Arboretums, Tropical enclosure and Garden house. In 2009, the master plan was adopted to develop small individual garden spaces in the western part of sunder nursery. CPWD core committee approved a layout plan in last quarter of 2014. Under this plan, AKTC has commenced development works in the western nursery beds which includes construction and completion of pathways which also has central plaza. After completion of the path, under the CPWD officials, AKTC has relocated the plants on leveled nursery beds to facilitate the more organized view of plants for the visitors. Under the next stage trees will be planted at locations mentioned in the landscape plan.
The north-eastern region of Sunder Nursery consists of micro-habitat zone which has diverse flora which is found in the various regions of Delhi such as the ridge, river banks and swamps. Water loving plants and trees were planted along the banks of rivulets or water channels which were specially created in 2015 by AKTC. Within the rivulet network a small amphitheater was created to be used by school children and nature enthusiasts. A 30 acre biodiversity zone has been created inside Sunder Nursery which acts as an ecological asset. It has 28 butterfly species, 76 bird species, 290 native tree species and 3345 trees mapped on GIS.
The construction of Sunder Nursery Lake, spreading to about 6500 sqm which acts as a water reservoir and a rain water catchment basin was commenced in 2014. This lake created in low lying area, also serves as a holding tank for water required for irrigation. The project aims to plant over 20000 saplings in the area of 200 acres of the Sunder Nursery landscape. Various trees like citrus, mango, neem and grass are proposed to be planted along the water channels, roads, boundary walls, water bodies, monuments, nursery beds and pathways.
Socio-economic development in the basti
For better understanding of the issues and locating problematic areas, AKTC has undertaken the physical survey and mapping of the basti in 2009, which showed that five acres of parks already existed in the basti but were occupied by rag pickers and drug dealers. Only two percent of the basti’s population was accessing the park. The survey resulted in reconstruction of ruined parks and circulating areas for pedestrians throughout the basti were constructed. Separate parks were constructed in accordance with the needs of the women, children, for playing cricket and various community functions. These parks are now being maintained by the community with AKTC support.
The renewal of the existing MCD primary school was commenced by improving its overall infrastructure. This led to increase in enrollment and attendance of students. In the health sector, the existing building of the MCD polyclinic in the basti was upgraded along with the creation of a pathology laboratory to ensure betterdiagnosis, reduce referrals and provide better treatments. With the prime agenda of socio-economic development of the basti and its people, the urban renewal project not just provided open spaces, access to good education and timely health care, but also motivated people for engagement with their culture.