The initiative is a project of the Aga Khan Development Network


Heritage conservation is often seen to be delinked from socio-economic development. The Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative is an example of rethinking conservation and demonstration that heritage conservation is a stepping stone for socio-economic development. A multi-disciplinary team has worked with local communities to fulfill these objectives. The project’s principal focus remains leveraging the cultural assets for the community’s benefits. The project addresses the community’s needs in health, education, livelihoods, urban services and cultural revival. The sanitation component is driven by the finding of the Quality of Life survey that indicated that 25% of the houses did not have in-house toilets and almost 60% of the community rated improved cleanliness as their top need.

Nizamuddin had two community toilet complexes and four urinals; however, only one of the toilet complexes was barely functional, the other was impossible to use and all the urinals were in a poor state. The functional toilet had separate sections for men and women with nine seats in each. For families with no access to toilets, women were forced to bathe in the open or in makeshift arrangements within the house.

Lack of functional community toilets was felt particularly acutely during festivals and Urs celebrations as pilgrims camp in the open parks, roads and inside the Dargah without any proper sanitation facilities. The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) provides two mobile toilet vans for the duration but they too are inadequate. The entrance to the Dargah and the open parks and the main roads became particularly unhygienic during the pilgrim seasons of Urs and Muharram.

Waste collection at the household level was practically negligible. The streets were lined with several small rubbish heaps which would sometimes find its way to the municipal dump from where it would be cleared after it was spilling over and based on complaints. The houses on the nallah side of the basti were not connected to a sewer line and the space was covered with several feet of garbage.

in Nizamuddin
before 2007

The sanitation initiatives were designed against this background and with consultations and meetings with community members. Plans for the upgradation of the community toilets were made keeping in mind the privacy and safety for women, availability of water, ventilation and adequate day lighting which were issues that concerned nearly everyone. Provisions for children and pilgrims were also concerns of the community.

The smaller facility, which was unusable, was taken for upgradation first. It was designed with 10 toilet seats. Given the space constraints the toilet facility was split into two floors to provide better ventilation and lighting as well as privacy for women.

The larger facility was redesigned to address bathing and washing needs of both residents and pilgrims with 30 toilet seats. The new design included courtyards on either sides of the building that allowed for adequate light and cross ventilation. Special toilets for children with smaller seats and doors were included. Two disabled friendly toilets located at the entrance allowed for easy access. The upper floor of the larger community toilet facility was designed as a multipurpose hall that may be used for community meetings and a resource centre for Nizamuddin. Walls along the children section were decorated with mosaic art by an artist identified from the Basti.

in Nizamuddin
Our Project Components
Barapullah Nallah Development

Until the 19th century, the Barapullah together with other Delhi nallah’s (drains) was considered a river or at least a tributary to the River Yamuna. Over time, this historic nallah that carried rain-water had become a dirty drain with waste water, solid waste and sewage. In the past few years, portions of the nallah have been also used to build an elevated road causing the main culet to break in many places and also dumping of very large quantities of construction waste. Construction waste from Nizamuddin Basti has also been dumped illegally over the years which also one of the reasons for the irregular flow of the Nallah.

Since 2008, the project has been working towards the redevelopment of the Nallah, aimed at improving the landscape around it providing the community a much needed additional green open space.

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Door to door waste management

When the project commenced, the streets of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti were found to be littered with waste. In community discussions the large accumulation of waste is seen as the most serious problem in the Basti. As such the project has sought to develop a sustainable system for waste collection and disposal in consultation with the local community and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

To improve waste disposal systems in the basti, in 2008 a door to door waste collection has been initiated in 25 families in Khusro Nagar. The families have agreed to pay Rs 20 per month to the waste collector. Residents and community facilitators are both assisting in mobilising more families to participate in the program in order to reduce dumping of waste at the Nallah.

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Constructing Community Toilets

In addition to the millions of annual pilgrims who visit the Dargah, the initial surveys revealed that 25% of resident families did not have in the home toilets. Only one of the two municipal community toilets was in use and even here broken toilet infrastructure, lack of privacy for women, had made its use undignified. Women felt unsafe and the toilets lacked adequate privacy especially at night, and there were no provisions for children. For families with no access to toilets, women were forced to bathe in the open or make temporary arrangements within the home.

As part of the project, two community toilets have been built providing a clean and safe facility, especially for women, separate bathing and washing areas and child-friendly seats. A management group comprising of users has been established.

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0 houses

Linked to
door-to-door waste collection system

0 truckload of sewage removed

Cleaning up
Barapullah Nallah

0 houses

Connected to the main sewer line

Over 0 residents use the toilet services daily

the cleaning
of commercial
areas in the Basti

0 parks created

Creating safe
community spaces

Two community
toilets constructed