Heritage experts question Chandni Chowk project

Heritage experts and urban planners have thrown a spanner in the works of the ongoing Chandni Chowk redevelopment project.
Business in Chandni Chowk had been hit badly due to reconstruction work in this part of the city | FILE photo
Business in Chandni Chowk had been hit badly due to reconstruction work in this part of the city | FILE photo

NEW DELHI: Heritage experts and urban planners have thrown a spanner in the works of the ongoing Chandni Chowk redevelopment project. They are primarily objecting to placement of power transformers, public conveniences, and police booths on the central vista. 

Seeking a review of the project, they have suggested relocation of the transformer to the edge of the pavement to ‘protect the visual grandeur’ of the 17th century market designed by Mughal emperor Shahjahan’s daughter Jahanara. 

In an application filed in the Delhi High Court last month, the applicants have sought directions for Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC), the executing agency, to reassess the proposal of shifting all services to the central verge. 

The application was filed by Professor AGK Menon, urban planner and conservation consultant, Smita Datta Makhija, heritage conservation architect, Ashok B Lall, former convener of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC) work group on energy, and Sujata Kohli, an expert landscaping planner.

Following their objections, the court has directed the DUAC to convene a meeting of all stakeholders--including consultant architects Pradeep Sachdeva Design Associates (PSDA)- by March 31 to take a decision with regard to the project. The commission was also directed to place minutes of the meeting before the court before the next date of hearing, which is April 23. 

“The DUAC shall take a fresh decision.The DUAC will take note of the developments thus far, including the fact that the redevelopment project, with a substantial budget outlay, is already under way and is proceeding on a time-bound schedule,” said a bench, in an order passed on Wednesday.

Earlier, the DUAC also wrote to the project stakeholders, including SRDC, to submit the proposal for its consideration and approval as per the laid-down procedure. The agency has noted that the PWD, which is carrying out the work, and SRDC had not taken its approval, which is mandated by Section 11 of the DUAC Act. 

A senior government official privy to the development said ill-timed objections raised by the individuals and DUAC now does not make a sense. “The project was duly approved by the appropriate authority by the governing body of the unified traffic and transportation infrastructure (planning & engineering) centre (UTTIPEC) under the chairmanship of Delhi lieutenant governor (L-G). DUAC’s representative was also present in the meeting,” said the official.   

All infrastructure project in the national capital needs nod from UTTIPEC.

“The redevelopment is being carried out after intense stakeholder consultation. I have personally met renowned historians and experts, who appreciated the plan,” said Sachdeva. 

The long-pending project to decongest the about 1.5 kilometre-long Chandni Chowk road starting from

Red Fort to Fatehpuri masjid was given final go ahead by the UTTIPEC in August.

According to the approved plan, no vehicular traffic will be permitted on the road for 12 hours - 9am to 9pm. Only non-motorised transport, such as cycle rickshaws, will be allowed to ply in a dedicated corridor, thus making it the first ‘pedestrian only’ stretch in Delhi. 

Responding to the development, Chandni Chowk’s traders expressed their displeasure over the ‘hurdle’ being created by the applicants. Sanjay Bhargava, president of Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, said their intervention would unnecessarily cause further delay in the project. 

“We have been fighting for this for more than 20 years. They did not come forward when the project was at the discussion level. They didn’t react when the final approval was given. The project has th stamp of the L-G and the DDA). The work has already started and is moving as per the schedule under the court’s monitoring. Objections were raised just to satisfy their egos,” Bhargava said. 

Professor PSN Rao, chairman of DUAC, refused to comment on the matter.

Alka Lamba, Chandni Chowk MLA, who is the director of SRDC, said in a democracy everyone had a  right to present his views. “It is a court-monitored project. If the judges find their objections valid, they will decide the next course of action accordingly.” 

The project to restore Chandni Chowk’s lost glory was first conceived in 1998. Later, the project was proposed in 2002-03, and was cleared by then Delhi chief secretary S Regunathan in July 2005.


hahjahanabad is a protected area and indentified as heritage zone in the Master Plan of Delhi, 2021

A water channel ran through the market in the centre, which reflected moonlight. Hence, the place derived its name Chandni Chowk. The central median should be retained and redeveloped to enhance its history and preserve vital character

Its layout central median flanked by carriageways on both sides with row of shops are preserved for more than three centuries

Globally famous promenades and thoroughfare are dominated by straight median such as Ramblas (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), and Hazratganj (Lucknow)
Placement of utilities on the central axis would destroy the visual integrity


Redevelopment project is not mere a conservation architecture proposal. It involves looking at safety issues of a crowded and dense area as well as providing basic amenities.

The historic canal, which stopped functioning in 1910, is being represented through decorative patterns of Mughal origin. Chandni Chowk got its name from the octagonal reflecting pool, not from the water canal

Central median and both carriageways are being retained, redevelopment symbolically closer to the original scheme of Mughal period. It will make comfortable and accessible environment

Utilities will be more visible if kept on the side pedestrian areas. The transport school of IIT-Delhi supports the idea of placing them on central verge

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