Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Due to Various Approval Hurdles Old City to Get Facelift Only After Games

Even as the rest of the city gets a facelift ahead of the Commonwealth Games, the Walled City that sees a large number of tourists will continue to exist in a state of neglect. After over six years of planning for the redevelopment of the area, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) now claims that it will only be able to reconstruct the central verge in Chandni Chowk before the Games.

Said MCD commissioner K S Mehra: ‘‘Getting the requisite approval from various agencies takes time and therefore we will only be able to reconstruct the central verge before the Games. The rest of the redevelopment of Chandni Chowk will be taken up after the Games.’’

Traders in the area now claim that they will not let the civic agency carry out work on even the central verge. Said general secretary of Chandni Chowk traders’ association, Sanjay Bharghav: ‘‘For more than six years we have been hearing about their redevelopment plans for the area. However, no work has been done on ground. We are now tired of this and will not allow MCD to carry out any work here. This will just be a waste of money. Chandni Chowk is a major tourist destination and the government agencies should have given priority to the area. Instead, the main road of Chandni Chowk has been dug up everywhere for deep sewage work being carried out by Delhi Jal Board (DJB). The pavements, too, are crumbling and there is utter traffic chaos in the area.’’

At present, the main road from Red Fort to Fatehpuri remains heavily encroached by vendors, and illegal parking of vehicles makes it impossible to walk around the area. Said a trader: ‘‘Lakhs of tourists are expected to visit Chandni Chowk during the Games and it will be a matter of shame for us to showcase the Old City as it exists today. There is no space to walk in the area due to heavy encroachment, the overhead wires continue to be an eyesore and there is no proper parking area or even basic amenities available here.’’

The original ambitious redevelopment plan floated by MCD around six years back included relaying of the main Chandni Chowk road along with other roads in the Walled City, carrying out ducting of service lines, relaying of pavements in the area, putting up new streetlights, carrying out facade improvement, among other works. MCD had also proposed to start a tram service in the area. The total cost of the plan was estimated to vary between Rs 40 crore and Rs 50 crore. According to senior MCD officials, however, delays in getting the funds from Delhi government for this project also led to problems and delayed the work in Chandni Chowk.

Said Abhimanyu Dalal, consultant for the project: ‘‘We had a meeting with senior officials of MCD in the beginning of June. We were told that work on improving the footpaths and installing streetlights in the area could be started soon as part of phase-I, which was supposed to be undertaken before the Games. However, we haven’t heard from them since then.’’

Said Bharghav: ‘‘In a letter by chief minister Sheila Dikshit, we were assured that phase-I of this project would be completed before the Games. But none of the promises made to us has been kept.’’