A Walk down the narrow congested bylanes of the Hazrat Nizamuddin basti where Amir Khusrau started the Qawwali music traditions in the thirteenth century and now thrives a community that is considered the living heritage of the Capital one can see a visible transition. Small eateries,ittar shops and heritage structures still dot the streets,but what comes as a surprise is the feverish activity going on in the area. The revamped MCD school is abuzz with children,the community centre has women cutting out designs on paper,a queue snakes out of the polyclinic and workers reconstruct collapsed portions of an ancient baoli.
In a successful public-private partnership,three years after its inception,the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti has been able to usher in visible changes in the life of the community settled here over centuries. Inspired from similar conservation-based development projects in Kabul and Cairo,also being carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC),the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal Project goes beyond mere restoration of monuments and engages in activities related to adaptive re-use,contextual urban planning and the improvement of housing,infrastructure and public spaces.
A partnership that includes the Archaeological Survey of India,the Central Public Works Department,the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and AKTC,the project will unify three zones Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti,Sunder Nursery and Humayuns Tomb into an urban conservation area of cultural significance while improving the quality of life for the residents.
Our Delhi project benefits from the worldwide experiences of the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme such as in Cairo and Kabul. To be effective in India,it is essential that conservation is used as a tool for socio-economic development of the inhabitants within the conservation areas, AKTC project director Ratish Nanda told Newsline.
The AKTC has been carefully working on conserving the heritage of the area which has a high concentration of heritage structures like the Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya,Mazar-e-Ghalib,Baoli,Lal Mahal and Chaunsath Khamba. The conservation of monuments and the rehabilitation of open spaces in the Basti aim to restore its intrinsic cultural,historical and spiritual significance. It combines conservation with a major socio-economic development effort that is implemented through a community-centered collaborative approach, Nanda explained.
The major effort towards improvement in primary education included a revamp of the MCD primary school,introducing arts education,greater interaction with parents and improved school management. A pathology laboratory has also been set up. Last year,a physical mapping survey of the Basti was undertaken,leading to the preparation of street improvement plans which will be implemented by the MCD.
Farhad Suri,former Mayor and councillor of Nizammudin,who has been a important linkage between the Trust and the MCD,said,The public-private partnership has worked out remarkably here and more so because the community living here has been involved in the development of the area. Young children have been trained as tourist guides and around 150 children enrolled with the American Embassy for English speaking classes. Some others were offered scholarships for intensive programmes by the British Council. The women of the community are now earning through their intricate paper cuttings. He said a positive change can be seen not only in the area but also among the residents. They have now become more confident individuals. The Trusts initiative has come as a god-sent for the residents, Suri added.
Despite the initial teething problems,the active community participation has changed things for the better. The project can be replicated in other localities that house the Capitals living heritage.
* The MCD Primary school has been refurbished.
* Children trained as tourist guides. Around 150 of them enrolled with the American Embassy for English speaking classes; others offered scholarships for intensive programmes by the British Council.
* The women of the community were taught paper cutting,a means of employment for them now.
* A pathology laboratory has been set up where over 12,000 tests have been conducted so far.
* Last year,a physical mapping of the Basti was undertaken that led to the preparation of street improvement plans which will be implemented by the MCD.
* Conservation work on the Humayuns Tomb and several other heritage structures in Nizamuddin like the Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya,Mazar-e-Ghalib,Baoli,Lal Mahal,Chaunsath Khamba.
CAIRO: In the old city,a barren site has been converted into a 30-hectare urban park with many visitor facilities. At the Darb al-Ahmar neighbourhood,directly abutting the park,several mosques,old palaces,historic houses and open public spaces are being rehabilitated in an effort to make them accessible to the local community and visitors.
KABUL: The sixteenth century Bagh-e Babur in Kabul,where the first Mughal Emperor Babur was buried,is being restored in a similar fashion. The rehabilitation of the garden not only re-establishes the historic character of the site with its water channels,planted terraces and pavilions but also provides a much-appreciated space for leisure,meetings,and open-air receptions.