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NDMC to begin C-block restoration this week

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Restored view: An artist’s presentation of Connaught Place after the restoration work is over.
Restored view: An artist’s presentation of Connaught Place after the restoration work is over.

Manisha Jha

Existing windows, frames and plaster to be replaced; columns, walls to be restored to original shape

NEW DELHI: After several delays bogged down commencement of work on restoration of the façade of C-Block in Connaught Place, the New Delhi Municipal Council is finally ready to begin work this week.

“We are at present engaged in groundwork and barricading, and are about to start work soon,” said NDMC spokesperson Anand Kumar Tiwari, adding that work is expected to be complete by March 2008 as per the new revised timeline.

The nature of work undertaken will include replacement of existing windows and frames, plaster and painting in addition to restoration of columns, walls, jalis to original shape. The civic body also plans to have uniform flooring and corridor lighting and façade illumination.

Another major feature of the restoration work is disciplining of shop sign boards to a uniform size that will not be directly put up on the wall but in a box first. According to the NDMC, despite there being a law no sincere attempt has been made to discipline the shopkeepers resulting in springing up of sign boards of different shapes, sizes and colours.

Said an NDMC official: “C-Block will be undergoing restoration after 70 years since it was built. We want to restore it to its original design of 1936. Being the smallest block, C-Block restoration is being carried out first on an experimental basis. If the final result is satisfactory then we plan to emulate a similar restoration plan for all other blocks as well.”

After getting clearance from the Heritage Conservation Committee and the Delhi Urban Arts Commission last year, the Rs. 2 crore project was originally slated to begin in February and completed by October. However, it could not take off due to reluctance on the part of the New Delhi Traders’ Association (NDTA), a major stakeholder in the project, to share the cost.

The NDTA president Atul Bhargava said: “There was an impasse due to the non-cooperative attitude of the previous NDMC chairman. But after the coming of the new chairman, the situation has improved remarkably and a positive solution to the cost sharing problem has been worked out.”

According to Mr. Bhargava, all the 25 to 30 occupants of C- Block have agreed to contribute 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the total private expenditure on building restoration incurred by the NDMC.

However, the problem of parking and traffic circulation in Connaught Place still remains a major cause of concern for the NDTA. Mr. Bhargava said: “Since work was already been delayed, we have given our preliminary approval for C-Block work. But an agreeable solution for parking and traffic circulation is still being debated with the NDMC and the DUAC. It is the biggest challenge to the overall plan of redeveloping Connaught Place, but we are hopeful that a solution would be found soon.”

Members of the NDTA believe that instead of adopting the proposed new parking plan, the existing parking facilities should be streamlined. Mr. Bhargava said: “We have our customers in mind. We cannot provide them such a parking facility for which they have to walk 5 to 10 minutes in the summer heat or at late night considering the law and order situation in Delhi.”

The NDMC’s proposal to shift generator sets from the terrace in C-Block is also being staunchly opposed by the NDTA. “We are not going to agree to this proposal till the NDMC provides us uninterrupted power supply. The NDMC is working on upgrading its electricity infrastructure, but it will take time,” said Mr. Bhargava.

The restoration work would be the first step of “Redevelopment of Connaught Place” plan touted by the civic body as its dream project to be completed before the Commonwealth Games in 2010. The NDMC plans to restore the facades of all blocks of Connaught Place, improve pedestrian areas and existing subways, and also construct nine new subways. It also plans to augment and improve engineering services and come up with a comprehensive plan to boost infrastructure, traffic circulation and parking facilities.

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