Barely a few metres from the cacophony of the Mathura Road is a tranquil place that is emerging as a showcase for ecological and archaeological riches.
The sprawling Sunder Nursery is gearing up to introduce visitors to concepts such as kohi, khaddar, dabar and bangar, which experts fear are being forgotten fast.
It would be a good opportunity for about three lakh students from Delhi schools, apart from other domestic and international tourists and annual visitors to the neighbouring Humayun's Tomb, a World Heritage Site, to learn about different ecological micro-habitat zones that once typified Delhi: kohi (the ridge), khadar (riverine), dabar (marshy) and bangar (plain alluvial).
The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) signed an MoU with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in 2009 for revamping the 70 acre natural and archaeological paradise, which was a wasteland used for dumping debris. Most Delhiites know the small portion functioning as nursery selling plants, shrubs and seeds at economic rates. But not many are aware of its rich biodiversity.
"The development of the nursery will showcase the natural habitat, the ecology and archaeology together," SK Mittal, CPWD director general said. KP Singh, chief horticulturist, AKTC, said: "Over 300 varieties of tree species will serve both as a major carbon sink and an ecological asset besides being Delhi's first arboretum. Already an increased number of butterflies and birds are being recorded here."
The AKTC team had discovered several wells — three of them in the main movement area — that were covered. These were dug, revived and the water is being used for horticulture. A vista is being developed along the main pedestrian entry gate with char bagh pattern comprising lawns and fountains to the north of Sunderwala Burj, a protected Mughal monument. Eight other Mughal era monuments too would be restored.
Fruit orchards form part of the overall habitat development which has a 10-acre bird habitat zone and about 20 acres to showcase the four microhabitats of Delhi. "The amphitheatre can seat 700 people and is set amidst the monuments' backdrop," said an official.
"It would be a little more than a year for it to be completed," Mittal said.M Shaheer, AKTC's landscape consultant, said, "It is part of the large green continuous zone stretching from Purana Qila to Delhi zoo and Humayun's Tomb. We would work on this aspect too."