A dug-up Chandni Chowk may be a source of heartache for hundreds of traders and visitors, but the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC) says it will power through the next few months to finish the ambitious redevelopment project.
The 1.5-km stretch from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid is undergoing major renovation work after a 10-year delay, and has been divided into five zones. The project’s overall cost is pegged at Rs 65 crore. According to minutes of a meeting of nodal officers held on April 2, “underground work in zone 3 and zone 4 has been completed by Delhi Jal Board and BSES”.
“Ancient cement pipes have been replaced by metal. BSES has finished building a trench, and will soon install 18 transformers. Work is on track, and we might finish before the March 2020 deadline,” an SRDC official said.
With traffic movement restricted, traders complain about “chaos and lack of preparation”. A shoe merchant in Ballimaran said, “There is more congestion now, what if there is an emergency and we need a fire tender or an ambulance? If they have a plan, they haven’t told us.”
A wedding trousseau shop owner in Chandni Chowk, whose store now faces mounds of sand and construction material, said, “Business is suffering because buyers resist coming here now…how will they carry heavy goods if they don’t have access to vehicles?”
Chandni Chowk MLA Alka Lamba said work didn’t begin for over a decade due to resistance from some traders. “There are 2,000 organisations…we can’t appease everyone, we have to finish the project and traders will see how it will benefit them. This is a temporary inconvenience with several benefits soon.”
Sanjay Bhargav, president of the Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyaapar Mandal, who is also the petitioner in a case to redevelop Chandni Chowk, said, “It was believed that footfall will go down, but that’s not the case.”
On the roster is a plan to turn the stretch into a car-free zone with dedicated areas for pedestrians and non-motor vehicles. An SRDC official said, “We will have separate parking for rickshaws. The lane will be used by emergency vehicles too.” The plan to bring e-trams, however, faces uncertainty. While Lamba claimed that it’s a part of the “beautification plan”, there is no deadline or acquisition plan ready.
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