MCD election: Old Delhi battles congestion, encroachments
Hundreds of shoppers and tourists visit the Old Delhi markets of Chandni Chowk and Darya Ganj and lack of parking space leads to clogging of roads. There are three multilevel underground facilities at Asaf Ali Marg, Church Mission Road, and Gandhi Maidan, but these are not enoughMCD Elections 2017 Updated: Apr 30, 2017 09:00 IST
A famous Japanese proverb, ‘darkness reigns at the foot of the lighthouse’, aptly sums up the deteriorating civic services resulting in a mess in the neighbourhood of the swanky 112 metre tall headquarters of North Delhi Municipal corporation.
One would expect at the least the areas in the vicinity to be in a better state but the reality is entirely different. Over the years nothing has changed here. It is easy to spot illegal constructions and commercial activities, crumbling drainage, lack of parking space and parks, hazardous trades, polluting units and absence of public conveniences.
For years, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi — the predecessor of north, south, and east corporations – controlled the civic affairs from Town Hall in Chandni Chowk. In 2011, its headquarters was shifted to the civic centre, however, that could not inspire it to revive the crumbling civic infrastructure of the Walled City.
“The civic administration was aware of the issues causing chaos in the Walled City but it just did nothing. Given the prevailing mess in and around Chandni Chowk, the municipal commissioners stopped coming to its headquarters. They would sit at a camp office in Ambedkar Stadium complex,” said a former councillor, who also lives in old Delhi.
After delimitation, the walled city has been divided into seven wards — Daryaganj, Ballimaran, Jama Masjid, Ajmeri Gate, Bazaar Sita Ram, Delhi Gate and Chandni Chowk.
Daryaganj was created after the abolition of Nizamuddin ward and it is part of South Delhi Municipal Corporation. A sizeable area of Daryaganj locality of old Delhi area comes under its jurisdiction.
Residents complain that the condition here has remained the same for 10 years and no sincere effort has been made to address the issues of sanitation and illegal construction.
“If a sanitation worker skips work even for a day, the lanes get heaped with garbage,” said Nadeem Qazi, a resident of Gali Qasim Jaan in Ballimaran, where the historic Ghalib Haveli is situated.
He added that the drainage network now lies buried under layers of concrete. “They kept relaying roads and damaged the drainage system. Any spill over or rain water with non-biodegradable garbage, like polythene, goes into sewer lines. Even a short spell of rain causes water logging here,” Qazi said.
Mohammad Burhanuddin, a resident of Farash Khana, complained that though the civic body installs dustbins in other localities none have been placed here. “The area requires effective door-to-door garbage collection. Municipal sanitation workers collect garbage only from the roads or garbage stations. People have engaged private garbage collectors, but some can’t pay for this and throw trash bags on the streets,” he said.
The municipal corporation was directed by the court to prepare a comprehensive solid waste management plan for the area, but this has not been done so far. The Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SDRC) also suggested measures like technology-based dustbins and underground dhalaos but the corporation is yet to respond.
Chandni Chowk councillor Surekha Gupta said the cleaning of streets is done on a daily basis. “When markets are closed in the evening, there are piles of garbage in the lanes and bylanes. But, all of them are cleaned every morning,” she said.
Over the years, several illegal buildings have come up in the area adding to the pressure on civic resources. Old structures in narrow lanes are being converted into multi-storied dwelling units and commercial complexes. People claim that no safety measures are kept in mind while raising construction and several new structures have been built on old weak foundations.
“There is no action against builders. They operate like mafia in connivance with police, municipal officials and politicians. The unauthorised structures are built without following the safety norms or rules,” said Pawan Gupta, who lives in Nai Sarak.
Hundreds of shoppers and tourists visit the Old Delhi area every day and lack of parking space leads to clogging of roads. Besides surface parking lots, there are three multi-level underground facilities at Asaf Ali Marg, Church Mission Road, and Gandhi Maidan, but these are not enough to meet the demand. The new parking lot at Parade Ground remains under utilised due to poor lighting arrangement on two floors.
“The corporation had, six years ago, announced the plan to build a parking lot at Sadar Bazaar, but nothing moved after that. The Gandhi Maidan parking is also to be reconstructed but the project has been delayed,” said Sushil Goel, a trader in Chandni Chowk market.
Poor community services
In the last five years, the municipal corporation has not constructed any community hall, school, parking or any other facility in the area. The Parade Ground parking project was approved by the unified Municipal Corporation in 2011.
“Whenever a demand is made for a new community hall or green area, their reply is that there is no space. I wonder then where they spend their funds,” Zubair Anwar, a resident said.
Between 2012 and 2017, each elected member to North Corporation was given approximately Rs 3.5 crore. Khurram Iqbal, councillor from Jama Masjid ward, said he had exhausted the funds allocated to him on several projects, including redevelopment of two schools and relocation of dhalaos. “There were two municipal schools in Kucha Chelaan and Phool Mandi, which were lying abandoned. I got them redeveloped. Following complaints, I also got dhalaos relocated,” said Iqbal.
Saima Riaz, a councillor from Idgah Road ward said she spent the entire amount on creating facilities for women. “A women-only park was developed in Sarai Khaleel area. Besides, toilet blocks were made in other localities. I also spent on repair of polyclinic in Sadar Bazaar,” she said. Her ward has been abolished after delimitation and has been merged with Ballimaran and Quresh Nagar ward.