The long-awaited Chandni Chowk redevelopment plan has finally started on the ground, with various agencies like the Public Works Department and traffic police working in tandem with locals to make Old Delhi’s facelift a reality in record time.
The first phase of work, which started on Sunday, entails the removal of all overhead wires, mostly electrical. In future, these will be laid underground.
Costing approximately Rs 44 crore, the initial phase is expected to be completed within one year.
Digging is in full swing at Chandni Chowk. The redevelopment plan will be completed in six phases
Once the work is over, tourists and shoppers coming to Delhi’s heritage area will be able to walk at ease as the roads will be pedestrian-friendly.
“PWD is digging trenches which will be approximately 3m wide and 1.5m deep to accommodate all overhead wirings, be it of BSES, MTNL and others,” a senior PWD official said.
Provision will also be made to accommodate other lines, including LPG connections.
“All overhead transmission, telecom and water lines will be inside a duct under the ground. This model will be similar to the project that had been undertaken in Connaught Place’s Middle Circle. It will clean up the overhead mess that has been prevalent in this area for several decades,” the official said.
The work is set to happen in total six phases of one month each, starting off from Fatehpuri road to Town Hall, from Town Hall to Fountain Chowk, Fountain Chowk to Red Fort Chowk, and then working on the northern carriageway on the same route.
The Delhi Traffic Police, meanwhile, has also requested a provision for laying cables for CCTV, to be installed later in the market area.
Once the proposed Metro station near Red Fort opens up, the footfall will increase in the area tremendously. Keeping this in mind, the civic agencies and traffic authorities are trying to complete the plan in a fixed time-frame.
The redevelopment plan has also got a backing of Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung and Chandni Chowk MP Harsh Vardhan.
A lane of 2.5m width has been provided next to the central verge for the movement of light vehicles such as cars, autos, two-wheelers and for rickshaws.
For pedestrian movement, besides the approaches from the footpath at the ends of the barricading, at least two crossover points will be made available for approaching the shops from the southern carriageway.
PWD officials said the real challenge will come up in the second phase of the redevelopment plan, which is facing stiff opposition from both residents and traders.
“The Lt. Governor has given the go ahead for the second phase as well. The stretch from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid will be decongested, wherein no motor vehicles will be permitted on the area. In addition to that, there will be 18m-wide footpath on either side which will have trams plying on them,” the official added.
Traders cheer as digging work picks up pace
Nine years of long waiting has finally brought some smiles for traders of Chandni Chowk as the redevelopment project kicked off, with the PWD starting the digging work from Fatehpuri to Town Hall side on the northern carriageway.
“It was high time to start the work in the area. In the last 11 years, not a brick has been changed. The area is in a shambles. Now with the change of government and positive attitude of authorities, we hope that the work will see a good progress,” said Sanjay Bhargava, general secretary, Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal.
However, traders hope that the redevelopment plan does not collapse like the one at Connaught Place.
“We only want that they finish the work on time and don’t create a digging mess as the area is already congested,” Bhargava added.
The imam of Fatehpuri Masjid, Mufti Mukarram, has requested the agency to finish the work outside the mosque before July 20 as Eid prayers will be held at the dug out area.
Some traders feel that rains could hamper the work and that the undertaking should have started a month earlier.
“Rains might add to the chaos. However, we don’t want to complain and are hopeful that the work will pick up pace in the next few days,” said Shahid Ahmad, a trader.
Traders are also apprehensive of the plan to allow rickshaws and e-rickshaws in the area.
“E-rickshaws will hamper the initial plan of keeping it a pedestrian-friendly road.
“We want the parking area to be converted into multi-level parking,” Bhargava said.
According to the new diversion plan, the police will only allow local vehicles to enter Chandni Chowk from Fatehpuri Masjid and has made the stretch between Fatehpuri Masjid and Bhagwat T-point near S.P. Mukherjee Road one-way.
Two lanes of the three-lane carriageway will be barricaded while one carriageway will be left free for passage of smaller vehicles.
Abhimanyu Dalal: The architect
There is urgency now and so it was important to start the work. The urban conservation will take time. Right now, the first phase will have points where ducts will be placed, and electric wires and other utilities will be put underground.
Provision will also be made to have lines for storm water drains and LPG. Wires for CCTVs will be placed underground as and when required. All of this will virtually require two years’ time.
What is one glaring problem at present?
E-rickshaws if allowed will not really go well with the current pedestrian- friendly plan.
On future plans:
Once the redevelopment starts, there are plans to integrate the heritage of Chandni Chowk in collaboration with the mercantile association. Festivals can be celebrated on chowks.
Events such as pigeon flying contest, storytelling, kite flying and night bazaars will be promoted. There will be heritage and real time signages that will display the history and interesting facts about the area in three different languages.
The idea of bread and breakfast services can later be introduced at heritage havelis in Chandni Chowk for tourists.