A landmark Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) project in New Delhi, India, the Urban Renewal Initiative is making enormous strides in revitalizing and unifying the three historical sites of Humayun’s Tomb, Nizamuddin Basti and Sunder Nursery into one unique heritage precinct. Powered by a non-profit public-private partnership between various agencies, the project is the first of its kind to combine conservation with environmental and socio-economic development while working with local communities and stakeholders. This initiative brings together world-class professional capabilities in all relevant areas and combines a visionary approach with local contexts and complexities. It is establishing an archetype for participatory conservation-led development of historic cities This initiative brings together world-class professional capabilities in all relevant areas and combines a visionary approach with local contexts and complexities. It is establishing an archetype for participatory conservation-led development of historic cities.
Located in heart of New Delhi, the Nizamuddin heritage precinct comprises the areas of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, Sunder Nursery and the World Heritage Site of Humayun’s Tomb. Following the successfully restoration of theHumayun’s Tomb Garden in 2004, the Urban Renewal project commenced with the signature of a Public-Private Partnership memorandum of understanding on 11 July 2007. The non-profit partnership includes the Archaeological Survey of India, the Central Public Works Department, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, theAga Khan Foundationand theAga Khan Trust for Culture. The project will unify the three zones into an urban conservation area of considerable breadth and cultural significance while improving the quality of life for resident population.
The project integrates conservation, socioeconomic development and urban and environmental development objectives in consultation with local communities and relevant stakeholders. Since its inception, the project has attracted additional partners and received co-funding from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Ford Foundation, World Monuments Fund, Sir Ratan Tata Trust, the Embassy of the United States, J.M. Kaplan Fund, amongst others.
The project features three main components:
Heritage Conservation: Conservation works now being undertaken on the mausoleum of the Mughal emperor Humayun, and associated buildings are based on exhaustive archival research and the highest standards of documentation. The plan is being implemented by master craftsmen using traditional tools, craft techniques and building materials. Sunder Nursery, the 70-acre site stands on the Mughal-era Grand Trunk Road and is home to several monuments of national importance which are under restoration. A public park is being designed around the monuments. In Nizamuddin Basti, the conservation of monuments and the rehabilitation of open spaces iaim to restore its intrinsic cultural, historical and spiritual significance. To date, 5 public open spaces and two significant monuments have been restored.
Socioeconomic Initiatives:The project combines conservation with a major socioeconomic development effort that is implemented through a community-centred, collaborative approach. The objective is to improve environmental conditions and strengthen essential urban services with interventions in core areas of education, health and sanitation. All programmes commenced following a quality of life assessment study. These initiatives include education, health and urban improvements and cultural revival activities.
Environmental Development: The project aims to enhance and showcase the ecological and built heritage of the 70-acre Sunder Nursery. A nursery was originally established here in the 1912 when the imperial Delhi complex was being planned for propagating and testing tree species from across India and overseas. An important aim for the development would be to creatively combine monuments, forest and nursery functions within one interactive experience. The landscape master plan aims to create a major landscape space of truly urban scale, deriving inspiration from the traditional Indian concept of congruency between nature, garden and utility coupled with environmental conservation. The nursery will also provide a major new green space for public recreation.