Delhi's Chandni Chowk plots a heritage harvest as long-running redevelopment project picks up pace

Authorities promise to present the historic street in a new avatar by March 2020

August 12, 2019 01:22 am | Updated September 08, 2020 01:12 pm IST - New Delhi

Redevelopment work being carried out on a stretch of road in Chandni Chowk.

Redevelopment work being carried out on a stretch of road in Chandni Chowk.

Monsoon is never chaos-free in Delhi. And if it happens to be Chandni Chowk in the middle of a spell of rain, the scene is one of sheer havoc: slush all around, and venturing out a hazardous enterprise with lanes dug up to lay underground power lines, cables, and water and gas pipelines. Surprisingly, no one’s complaining. Traders and residents in Chandni Chowk are, in fact, excited about the redevelopment work being carried out in the area.


“We are very happy with the ongoing redevelopment work. The authorities have worked hard to make the area free of overhead wires. They have done incredible work,” said Sanjay Bhargav, president of Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal.

The redevelopment of Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest markets in Delhi, is an extraordinary project not only for the authorities but also the local residents and traders who have been waiting for over 15 years to see an encroachment-free, utilities-equipped, clean and green area.

The project, first launched in 2004 following the intervention of the Delhi High Court, is nearing completion, thanks to the efforts put in by the stakeholders involved, in all 24 of them, including the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Archaeological Survey of India, Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, Delhi Police, Delhi Transport Corporation, Delhi Fire Service among others.

To finish the redevelopment plan by the March 2020 deadline, the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation, the firm managing the project, has conducted 44 meetings with the stakeholders since January 2017.

Nitin Panigrahi, deputy general manager (project and administration), SRDC, told The Hindu that because of the efforts of the stakeholders the project is well on track and will be completed within the time frame.

“The work is now in full swing. After completing the laying of underground wires, water lines and gas pipelines, we have prepared a sample stretch on the Red Fort side. We have tried to cause as little inconvenience to visitors and residents as possible,” said Mr. Panigrahi.

History in the making

Chandni Chowk was one of the most important streets in the historical city of Shahjahanabad, Delhi. Through the Mughal, colonial, and post-Independence era, the street has been a bustling market place and the epicentre of Shahjahanabad.

The redevelopment plan intends to make it a “great street” once again. It intends to decongest the area, facilitate free pedestrian movement, provide basic facilities, enhance greenery around the place while showcasing its rich heritage and culture.

A sample of how the area will look once the projectis completed.

A sample of how the area will look once the projectis completed.


Heritage status

The redevelopment work is being carried out keeping in mind the heritage status of the area.

The entire stretch from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid, around 1.5 km, is being redeveloped as a pedestrian and non-motorised vehicle street. For the convenience of commercial activity in the Chandni Chowk area, entry of vehicles will be allowed from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.

“We are paying special attention to the efficient disposal of solid waste that will be segregated at the time of generation. We are focusing on public utility services like toilets, drinking water, police booth, tourist desk among others,” said Mr. Panigrahi.

According to the initial plan (in 2017), 19 electricity transformers, six toilets, and two police posts were to be installed on the 3.6-meter-wide Central Verge, but later the stakeholders realised that it will create hindrance to the view of the Red Fort from Chandni Chowk and might not go with the heritage status of the street.

The Delhi Urban Arts Commission said the proposed utilities and transformers on the Central Verge would create a trail of visual as well as physical obstruction. “A linear succession of transformers [23 in number] will mar the aesthetics of the historic street and block the serial vision of the pedestrian,” said the DUAC while suggesting that the transformers be installed on either side of the road.

This is being opposed by the traders in the area who don’t want any transformer or public utility services outside their shops. “The installation of electricity transformers, police booth and public toilets on the roadside will create an obstruction to the shops. They will result in business loss and add to encroachment,” said Mr. Bhargav. Also, transformers on the road pose a fire hazard to shops and hinder pedestrian movement, he added.

Some residents are not in favour of the transformers and utilities being installed on the Central Verge. “Installations at the Central Verge will not go with the heritage status of the street. The aim of the redevelopment work, to get a clear view between Red Fort and Fatehpuri Masjid, will not be achieved,” said Mahesh Jain, a local.

The Delhi High Court has directed the authorities to complete the installation of the transformers on the main road by August 31.

“We held a meeting over the issue and it was discussed that there shall be no toilets, transformers and police posts on the Central Verge. We will try to find another location,” said a senior officer with SRDC.


An engineer working at the project site said that moving the overhead cables underground was the biggest task undertaken as part of the redevelopment plan. “We have successfully completed 80% of the work without causing much inconvenience to the residents and shopkeepers. Cell phone service providers have also adhered to the deadline provided to them for shifting their lines to the underground network.”

Traders were all praise for SRDC keeping them in the loop on redevelopment decisions and taking everyone along as the work gained pace.

“We haven’t faced much difficulty in doing business even though the entire area is dug up for redevelopment work. It gives us confidence when customers reach the shops despite the mess all around,” said a trader.

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