Delhi to get ‘heritage corridor’

By Shweta Srinivasan, IANS,

New Delhi : Residents of the capital worried about the wheels of development rolling over its millennia-old heritage can breathe a little easier – the municipal authorities have approved an idea to have a “heritage corridor” right through the city.

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The corridor will be developed by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach). It will also improve and standardise the signs on Delhi’s roads before the 2010 Commonwealth Games as well as improve the roadside landscaping.

The proposal was approved by the standing committee of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) Wednesday.

When completed, the heritage corridor will be from Coronation Park in the north to Qutab Minar in south. In the first phase, Intach will redevelop the area in front of Ferozeshah Kotla.

“Since the proposal between the Delhi Gate and Daryaganj involved changes in the traffic pattern, the area in front of Ferozeshah Kotla is proposed to be taken up in the first phase as it could involve minimum disturbance,” MCD standing committee chief Vijender Gupta said.

“MCD is interested in initiating the streetscape concept from ITO junction to Daryaganj junction,” he added.

An MCD official said that that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) would be signed between the MCD and INTACH in the next couple of months, after the proposal is approved by corporators. Intach has signed a similar MoU with the Delhi government to revamp 92 monuments.

Talking about the proposal made to the MCD, convenor of Intach’s Delhi chapter A.G.K. Menon told IANS: “We have floated the idea and given them (MCD and govenment authorities) a bit of design idea. If this project materialises, then all sites that are lying wasted but are potentially rich culture-heritage areas will be in the public realm.”

The proposal includes developing signage, lighting, kiosks and “crucial landscaping”.

“There is no constraint of funds for authorities – while stuff like signage and lighting can be developed in two months after the project kicks off, landscaping will take time as the plants will take time to grow,” Menon said.

The basic designs that the civic authority is working on were drawn out by Intach with “seed money” from the World Monument fund.

“Once the government signs us on for the project we can develop a detailed project report. A city with heritage so rich needs development work that highlights it,” Menon added.

The MCD had also previously approved plans for revamping the Jama Masjid area.

The Intach proposal to standardise signages on Delhi roads was welcomed by many residents. “The current situation is chaotic and very often you do not know which way to turn,” said Arun Kukreti, a resident of Janakpuri in west Delhi.

The signages are often missing. When they do exist, they are in different sizes, colours and languages.

“There is a lot of parallel development projects going on – none bound by a clear vision,” Menon said adding that the AIIMS flyover project was a clear example.

“There are steel structures (sprouts) put on the landscape in the multiple levels of the road network; pedestrians have a hard time crossing the chaotic stretch on which traffic doesn’t stop. There needs to be a vision – we have planned one and the government and civic authority are accepting it quite openly,” Menon said.

In addition, the plan is to ensure that the project is pedestrian friendly and that there is ample parking space available at all these sites, Menon said.

“The Bus Rapid Transport corridor is already coming up on the stretch. We want that the heritage sites be accessible and an option for people to visit,” Menon said.

The MCD already has plans to build a multi-level underground parking at Shaheed Park. In its proposal, Intach has proposed development of an alternate parking site on the open space in front of Manak Bhawan on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. Apart from the underground parking, Shaheed Park will be developed to provide a clear view of the Ferozeshah Kotla Fort.

“Our idea is to develop the place that is otherwise congested into a pleasant public plaza. We will make sure these heritage sites gain more prominence and visibility,” Menon said.