The initiative is a project of the Aga Khan Development Network

"Development is sustainable only if the beneficiaries become, in a gradual manner, the masters of the process. This means that initiatives cannot be contemplated exclusively in terms of economics, but rather as an integrated programme that encompasses social and cultural dimensions as well. Education and skills training, health and public services, conservation of cultural heritage, infrastructure development, urban planning and rehabilitation, rural development, water and energy management, environmental control, and even policy and legislative development are among the various aspects that must be taken into account."

His Highness the Aga Khan

Nizamuddin; the name carries the flavour of a heritage rich in history and culture. The importance of its legacy and the environs are not lost on the people of Delhi or indeed, India. The area is visited by millions of tourists and pilgrims from across the world each year.

Today, recognized as the densest ensemble of medieval Islamic buildings in the country, the area is home to a significant resident community of which a number of families trace their descent to the revered Sufi saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, whose Dargah remains at the heart of the settlement. Located in the heart of New Delhi, the Nizamuddin Conservation Area comprises the World Heritage Site of Humayun’s Tomb and its surrounding areas of Sunder Nursery, Batashewala Complex and Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti.

The Urban Renewal project aims to unify these segregated zones of the conservation area into an urban historic district of considerable cultural significance.

The challenges

A socio-economic survey of almost 500 representative households was carried out in 2008 to compile information on the quality of life in Nizamuddin Basti. According to the survey, women and child health were areas of concern with higher incidence of chronic diseases amongst women. Women were largely confined to homes hence the need to extend the health outreach programmes. Healthcare interventions needed to look at the up-gradation of the medical and clinical facilities available in the Basti.
The existing civic infrastructure in the Basti was found highly inadequate for permanent residents with the situation worsening during peak times for visitor and pilgrim influx. A large percentage of families used public or shared toilets and water facilities. The project prioritised the building of community toilet complex, re-laying and up-gradation of existing drainage and sewer lines and waste management for better disposal of garbage and waste.

Open spaces in the Basti were poorly developed and under-utilised with barely 2% of the resident population being able to use existing parks in the northern and western periphery. Projects to improve and upgrade open spaces and parks have since commenced as part of the urban renewal initiative.

The physical surveys, carried out in 2010 after a gap of 80 years, identified urban and spatial problems, environmental concerns, open space utilisation and areas in urgent need of intervention to improve the quality of life in the Basti. The survey included the mapping of plots, condition mapping, typology and physical features of the built environment.

Interviews and discussions were held with community elders to record the oral history and understand the growth of the Basti in the past 50 years. The data collected on land use, transportation, green spaces, open and activity spaces and heritage structures was used to develop a detailed land use map, and have facilitated the phased upgrading and improvement initiatives in the Basti.
Seven principal streets in the Basti were identified for street improvement, which are entry points into the Basti and lead to important spiritual/ religious or heritage/cultural sites such as the Dargah, Kalan Masjid, Baoli and the SDMC urban services like the polyclinic, school, baraat ghar and public toilets.

Barely 2% of the resident population used park spaces for recreational purposes. The project initiatives aim to landscape and re-develop the parks to improve the environment and provide residents with much needed common use green spaces.

Our Programmes

Through the urban development initiatives, the project has sought to improve living standards in the Nizamuddin Basti, considerably enhance visitor experience and, through rehabilitation of critical monuments and civic open spaces, enhance the area’s value and significance in terms of history, places of spiritual importance and recreation.
The programme has been working towards improving the urban environment and in turn the Quality of Life. Surprisingly, for a historic settlement in the heart of the national capital, there was no survey map of the neighbourhood prepared in over a century. In 2009, for the first time, physical surveys were carried out to document and analyze the urban setting, prepare urban design guidelines and identify potential model projects that can be undertaken. The survey identified urban and spatial problems of the Basti and formed the basis of urban improvements in the Basti to improve the quality of life in the Basti. The key urban development projects undertake are:

Urban Development Process

To address the needs of a distinctive urban area, the Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative commenced with the triple objectives of conservation of built urban heritage, environmental development of water features and open spaces and improving the quality of life for the resident communities – whose most significant asset remained their built and living cultural heritage. Since 2007, a multi-disciplinary team has worked with local communities to fulfil these objectives.