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5 yrs on,Connaught Place facelift plan still going around in circles

It all started with the renovation of one model block in Connaught Place in 2007.

Written by Ruhi Bhasin | New Delhi | Published: April 17, 2012 1:34:25 am

It all started with the renovation of one model block in Connaught Place in 2007. The massive project of giving a facelift to this commercial hub,which was once — and is still — a coveted address in Luytens’ Delhi,seems to be a never-ending one. After five years of working in the area,all that the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has to show for it are dug-up spaces,exposed electric cables and pipelines,stained facades and chaos and congestion in general.

If a person does not watch his step here,he is bound to trip. A few of the quaint shops,which once made CP stand apart from other shopping areas,have downed shutters,claim traders,as they have not been able to cope with losses over the years caused by the area being ‘out of bounds’ due to barricading. Fresh digging is still on in front of several blocks besides barricading at Janpath and Barakhamba Road.

The ambitious ‘CP redevelopment plan’ — chalked out initially at an estimated cost of Rs 450 crore — included renovation of existing subways and construction of 12 new subways,facade restoration in all 16 floors,upgrade of parking lots and road networks,constructing a service utility corridor in the middle circle and seven radial roads (where all the services would be transferred),changing the flooring etc.

This is the sixth revised deadline for the project,which originally was supposed to be completed by the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The work on the ground began only a year before the Games. Traders,however,are doubtful that the work will be completed by this year-end. They have been having meetings with Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on this issue and she is expected to visit the area this week to take stock of the situation.

“The work is progressing smoothly on the ground and we hope to wrap up everything by December 31,2012. We want to cause minimal inconvenience to people and are trying to carry out the work in a phased manner,’’ said NDMC spokesperson Amit Prasad.

“The slow pace of work in CP is a matter of concern. This area is getting a bad name because of this. It is uninhabitable and business is suffering terribly with many people having shut shop,’’ said Atul Bharghav,NDMC president.

The facade restoration work,which has been on for nearly two years now,is still pending in blocks B,E and F as the contractor left the job midway and a new contractor had to be hired.

According to traders,the work has been stuck for a year and lack of coordination among different contractors has added to the mess. Officials also cited labour shortage as another reason for the project being delayed.

“Different packages of the project have been assigned to different contractors as each aspect requires specific expertise. We could not have taken each of these elements separately as this area could not have been re-dug again and again. Also,one of the main elements of this project included creating a utility service corridor. All utilities like electrical wires,water pipelines,telephone wires,etc,had to shifted underground. For this,we had to dig up the entire area,’’ said an NDMC official.

The work of the service corridor along the radial roads and the Middle Circle as well as the subway work were supposed to have been completed by March 2012.

“Electrical equipment and machinery like transformers,etc,which have to be placed in the service corridor are going to come soon. Cantilever beams are being put in place. The corridor work in the Middle Circle and the five radial roads will be completed by July. Work will now be taken up on two radials,Janpath and Barakhamba Road. Each radial will be completed within three months,’’ said the official.

Traffic police permission is still pending to start work on these two radial roads so soft barricading has been done in these places.

As far as the subways are concerned,of the five existing ones,escalators have been installed in two subways. Of the 12 new subways that were to be constructed,only four will be constructed after the NDMC faced major opposition to the project from the traders,who say many of these subways are unnecessary.

However,NDMC claims that subways are being constructed only in places where there is a demand for it due to high pedestrian movement.

“The new subways will come up at N-block near Statesman,M-block near Gopal Das Bhawan,G-block near Lady Hardinge Hospital and at H-block near New Delhi Railway Station Colony. The subways,which have been shelved,were the ones that were supposed to be made near Yusuf Zai Market,near MCD Market and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Marg,’’ said an NDMC official.

In the M-block subway,the escalator which was installed a year ago is yet to start functioning. “We have to ensure a proper sewage line here before it we can make it functional,’’ said the official.

Meanwhile,no decision has been taken on how to progress on other elements of the project like changing the flooring,air-conditioning etc. The Connaught Place renovation plan,meanwhile,just like the broken-circle commercial hub,seems to be just going around in circles.

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