Ratish Nanda, chief executive, AKTC, talks about Sunder Nursery makeover
Ridhima Kumar | April 19, 2018
The work on Sunder Nursery, a lush green refuge from urban chaos in central Delhi, started in 2007, when the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) undertook a conservation and renewal project. The 90-acre complex houses 15 monuments (out of which six date back to the 16th century), over 300 varieties of trees (making it Delhi’s first arboretum), lotus-shaped marble fountains, sandstone pathways, water bodies, an amphitheatre and a bonsai enclosure. Right next to the park sits the majestic Humayun’s tomb. Ratish Nanda of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), the man behind the mission to restore what has come to be known as Delhi’s ‘Central Park’, spoke to us about the effort.
What prompted you to restore, conserve and renovate the Sunder Nursery?
The Sunder Nursery development is part of the larger Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative being undertaken by the AKTC in partnership with the Archaeological Survey of India, Central Public Works Department and the South Delhi Municipal Corporation.
The project has, since 2007, undertaken conservation of over 50 monuments of which 12 were designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 2016. Similarly, through multiple efforts – health, education, sanitation, housing improvement, vocational training – the quality of life for residents of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti is being improved.
The project took over a decade. Did you at any point feel stuck somewhere?
Projects of such scale require long periods of time as survey, documentation, approvals, design, negotiation with public partners and finally implementation require adequate time, financial and human resources. Though it’s been 10 years, annual objectives were set each year for all project components.
How do you plan to maintain the park?
In January this year, we signed a follow-up agreement with the public partners to manage the park with the twin objectives of high levels of maintenance and achieving financial sustainability.
We also hope to influence behavioural change and make visitors responsible for their behaviour; not only do we plan to ensure cleanliness and security but also effect a plastic-free zone in the park. We will be involving community volunteers to effectively police the park.
Today Delhi is filled with malls at every corner. Would Sunder Nursery be able to draw crowds?
This is possibly the first such major urban development project undertaken by a non-governmental agency in India. We hope the success of this effort will inspire many more such initiatives in India.
However, this effort is in line with parks we have created in several countries such as Egypt, France, Canada, Afghanistan, Mali, Zanzibar and Syria. As with other countries we are confident that the Sunder Nursery will be a big draw for Delhi’s citizens.
Have heritage walks helped in recreating the interest in the city’s monuments and culture?
Heritage walks are a huge draw, possibly due to a renewed interest in the city’s history. As part of the Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Project, we have established a community youth group – Sair e Nizamuddin – to walk heritage enthusiasts through the bylanes of Nizamuddin.
How do you link your heritage projects to development?
AKTC’s Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative has aimed to demonstrate how conservation effort can lead to significant socio-economic development through job creation, increase in tourism, creating capital assets and simultaneous action on multiple fronts and thus meet government objectives for national development. The project has helped meet all the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Sometime in 1999, I took Arun Jaitley out for meal for the column, “Lunch with Business Standard”. As is his wont, he chose his own place for lunch. It was at the Chambers at the Taj Mansingh hotel, an exclusive domain of the high and the mighty Delhi. As we sat down for the meal
The arrest of Palaniappan Chidambaram, former union minister of home & finance, by the CBI, albeit after his much dramatic disappearance and reappearance, has brought an end to his long run from the arms of law. As a finance minister, being at the other end of the law, the former ministe
An unintended consequence of the inversion of Article 370 and the division of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories is the curious revival of Pakistan’s interest in Indian history and sociology. For the first time in decades, a Pakistan prime minister made the Rasht
Neeraj Kabi, a critically acclaimed self-taught actor, theatre director, and acting teacher, has worked in Odiya, Hindi and international cinema, theatre, television and web series. In 2014 he was honoured with the best actor award at the 4th Sakhalin International Film Festival for his role in the fil
Prime minister Narendra Modi has told US president Donald Trump that Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s “incitement to anti-India violence” was not good for peace in south Asia. Modi and Trump had a telephonic conversation – their first since the Aug 5 move to chang
As children are consuming more and more fast foods and sweetened beverages are becoming, leading to obesity and related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) has come out with guidelines on such substances. The dietary guidelines under its nutrition chapter