Staff Reporter

Proposed NH-24 project would increase pollution, traffic

NEW DELHI: The Taj Mahal may have the whole country pitching for it to find a place among the seven wonders of the world, but the fate of its inspiration -- the Humayun's Tomb - here in the Capital precariously hangs in the balance. It is threatened by a six-lane link from National Highway-24 that will increase pollution and bring speeding traffic within yards of this World Heritage Site.

A Rs. 800-crore project, it has brought heritage conservationists, urban planners, environmentalists, international agencies like UNESCO and ICOMOS and Delhi Wakf Board to rally together on one side.

While this proposed link road connecting NH-24 with Lodhi Road has been rejected by Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC) and encountered stiff opposition from these groups, the Public Works Department (PWD) seems set to steam ahead with its plans.

`A disaster'

Dubbed a disaster for more than just archaeological reasons by the heritage community, the road will also cut through good old Sundar Nursery -- chopping down close to a thousand trees, say experts -- which is where the British planned the planting pattern of New Delhi.

"Humanyun's Tomb is one of the most important sites in Delhi between Nizammudin and Purana Quila. The road will be a disaster as it will destroy this whole zone where there has been no archaeological dig so far. It will destroy the character of the city, apart from bringing in 5,000 cars into the heart of the city per hour. All this for the opening and closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, is it worth it," asks A.G.K. Menon, convenor of the Delhi chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

But sticking firmly to its plan, the PWD has rejected DUAC's suggestion of an alterative route via Barapullah Nullah with officials insisting that the PWD's alignment is the only one possible.

The project has come full circle now as the PWD has to re-submit the proposal to DUAC.

`Lack of thought'

The demerits apart, the road has also brought into focus lack of thought behind the project, say experts.

The feasibility report submitted by the PWD claims that the animals at Delhi Zoo -- that is also metres away from this proposed road -- will not suffer from the noise of vehicles as they only move around at night when the traffic will be lean.

With the rest of the details on the road also sketchy at best, the PWD has not explored other options at all, say experts.

"For such a large, city-scale project, all that was on display are more or less single-line engineering drawings, and there is no clear depiction of the real impact of these works by means of simulations, graphics or models, especially in relation to the context. The unsuitability of the proposal would have been clearly visible if this was done," said senior architect Ram Sharma at a recent DUAC meeting.