DELHI: Three projects in three cities aim to transform the lives of people who live close by. The one in Mumbai hopes to transform a congested area into a green precinct; the one in Delhi converted an open drain into a walkway, while Kolkata hopes to bring the crowds back...
Atony area in the heart of Delhi, Defence Colony is an upmarket locality with zooming property prices and posh apartments preferred by the rich. The area is also home to a large expat community.
Just one part of the locality was an aberration. An open drain cut the colony into two and homes on either side of this 2km stretch bore the brunt of the stink emanating from it. This was also why property prices and rentals were always depressed and renting homes around the drain was a broker's nightmare.
But those days are past. Now the drain has been covered and a green space created over it, much to the delight of the colony. From being a space that people shunned, it has become a place of congregation. The tracks and benches are a favourite with evening walkers.
"It's a breath of fresh air for the colony, though some stink still remains," says R Ganesh Aiyar, president of the Defence Colony residents welfare association talking about the development.
Reclaim your city space: Projects in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata aim to transform lives
"There was a terrible stench earlier. It was unbearable and so we requested Ajay Maken when he was the urban development minister in Delhi."
Delhi Development Authority, which took charge of the beautification plan at about Rs 45 crore, is close to completing the project started in 2009.
The cover on the drain stands on pillars and the concrete used is much higher in the project to protect the metal inside from corrosive gases emanating from the drain. "We have built gates on either sides of the nullah that will help in regular cleaning of the drain with machinery," says a DDA spokesperson.
The biggest challenge DDA faced was in diverting the many services running along the drain, like the water lines. It is in the process of identifying a space for setting up a water treatment plant to use the water for horticulture.
Apart from the health benefit, another positive impact has been the rise in property prices in the two streets around the drain. "Values of these properties were depressed because of the open drain. Prices have already jumped up 25%," says Akshay Pupreja, director of local property brokerage firm Roots Realty.
Brokers who found it a nightmare to rent out properties are happy too. "Rents are up 20%," says Pupreja.
Among other development projects, in 2004, DDA redeveloped a landfill site on the Outer Ring Road and converted it into the beautiful Millennium Indraprastha Park that has the World Heritage Site Humayun's Tomb in its background. The park, which is built on 85 acres of land, has a children's area, an amphitheatre and a food court and has a large World Peace Stupa that opened in 2007.
The original Dilli Haat near INA Market in south Delhi, which has become a cultural, shopping and eating hub was built by covering a drain and DDA has recently passed a proposal to construct a similar haat in east Delhi, near the Akshardham temple, by covering a portion of a storm water drain.