Seventy years was what it took for the British-built Connaught Place to show signs of ageing. But the newly ‘refurbished’ Connaught Place seems to have grown old in merely two years. Despite all modern techniques and materials, the NDMC project has still failed to match the standard set by the British in 1932.
One can see paint beginning to peel off and window panes starting to fall apart in the blocks restored before the Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2010. Moreover, the green buffer zone, which had eaten up a lot of space and money, has almost dried up and serves as parking lots.
This newly ‘refurbished’ pillar seems to be in dire need of repair and puts a question mark on the quality of material used in the project. HT photo
Incessant delay and missed deadlines apart, experts are also questioning the method used in the restoration work of the Capital’s premier business district. Many believe that the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and stakeholders have done a shoddy job.
“Not only has the agency compromised on the façade restoration work but even the pavements and roads are suffering due to the poor quality of work and materials used. They should have stuck with the traditional material to restore the market. But clearly they sacrificed quality for completing the work quickly,” said AK Jain, heritage expert and author of the book Lutyens Delhi. “Whenever a heritage building is restored, a lot of care goes into preserving its original look. But in this case, the work has been slipshod,” he added.
Experts are also concerned about the methods used to restore the building. “Connaught Place’s restoration has been a victim of poor craftsmanship. The planners obviously tried to beautify the place. What they failed in achieving was to conserve the exterior of the original structure,” said AGK Menon, a heritage expert.
Newly restored façades and brand new pavements are in a mess. The green buffer zones are being used to park vehicles. Raj J Raj/HT photos
It was in 2005 that the need to restore the market was first felt as the structure had started to show signs of deterioration with time. Initially what the planners wanted was to give a mere facelift to the market. It was only later that the NDMC decided to go the whole hog and develop the entire Connaught Place area, including subways, while preserving its British architecture. The plan boomeranged, rather badly.
Traders now complain that even in blocks where façade restoration has been completed, the contractor has not provided an outlet for rainwater to flow from the rooftops. Also, due to a tunnel being bored in the Middle Circle, the drainage of a few blocks has been affected causing massive waterlogging in the corridors.
“CP has weathered so many storms, yet its corridors have remained dry during the heaviest of rainfall. But this year was different. Because of the modification in the slant of some of the roofs, water started collecting in the corridors this monsoon, making it difficult for people to walk,” said Sunita Dahiya, one of the shopkeepers.
And now that Diwali season is round the corner, the shopkeepers are a worried lot. The façade restoration work in some of the blocks is being carried out now. “We don’t want to miss out on the upcoming festival season so we have asked the authorities to take up one block at a time and finish all the work, so that at least some portion of CP is complete,” said Atul Bhargava, president of New Delhi Traders’ Association.