New-look Purana Qila lake to be opened to public on October 2

As part of the lake revival project, NBCC is re-laying walkways, installing decorative lights, creating cabanas, and placing 11 aerating fountains in the pond to attract tourists.

delhi Updated: Sep 09, 2018 01:34 IST
Parvez Sultan
Parvez Sultan
Hindustan Times
Purana Qila lake,October 2,National Building Construction Corporation
Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma said the redevelopment-cum-beautification work at Purana Qila Lake Complex is on the verge of completion. (Sakib Ali / HT File)

The iconic lake at Purana Qila will be ready to greet visitors once again by end of this month.

National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC), the agency executing its redevelopment, is putting finishing touches to fencing around the water body, newly laid walkways, café, and interpretation centre being built on 23-acre campus comprising the pond along Mathura Road.

The lake complex is likely to be inaugurated on October 2, said a senior NBCC official requesting anonymity.

Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma said the redevelopment-cum-beautification work at Purana Qila Lake Complex is on the verge of completion. It will be finished by September 30, he said. “Lake restoration work is almost done. Aerating fountains will provide both an ecological and aesthetic benefit. People coming to the fort will be able to enjoy neat, beautiful, and serene surroundings from next month,” he said.

As part of the lake revival project, NBCC is relaying walkways, installing decorative lights, creating cabanas, and placing 11 aerating fountains in the pond to attract tourists.

To transform it into a “visitor-friendly” picnic spot, new amenities include a cafeteria, a souvenir shop, and additional parking space. A small interpretation centre is also being built where tourists will be able to get information about the history of the complex, the NBCC official said.

However, the lake at 16th century citadel built by Mughal emperor Humayun and Sher Shah, will not offer boating facilities that were stopped in August 2016.

“Boating at Purana Qila can’t be allowed as it is against heritage structures preservation rules. Sanctity of historic building should not be compromised,” said a senior Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) official, who is aware of the development.

NBCC adopted the site under the culture ministry’s “adopt a monument” scheme last year. The project cost is ₹27 crore, which is being shared by NBCC and ASI. The renovation work started in March 2018, officials said.

However, environment activists and heritage experts raised questions about the restoration methods adopted by NBCC.

They claimed “un-mindful construction” at the site has ruined historical evidences of the moat and that the plastic membrane used in the lakebed to stop water seeping into the ground will “damage the fort’s stability”.

“No original evidence of moat is left anymore. The ancient structure has given way to modern day constructions. They have concretised its embankment,” said an ASI official.

Sohail Hashmi, a filmmaker, who conducts heritage tours, said it seems like a “well-planned conspiracy” to destroy our heritage. “They took away the control of boating facility from Delhi Tourism. Then, they intentionally allowed the lake to dry up. The authorities are just not bothered about history and heritage,” he said.

Questioning the decision to concretise the lake’s base, Manoj Misra, the convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, said if water is not allowed to go to subsoil, it will pose a danger to Purana Qila’s structural integrity.

“The lake was big source of underground water recharge. Water seeping into the ground fills airspace in the soil, which keeps the earth intact. Vacuum in the earth is a threat to structural stability of the fort, which is already very old and looks frail,” he said.

Misra has also written to Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal seeking his intervention in the matter, which is already before the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The next date of hearing in the matter in NGT is September 24.

However, a senior NBCC official said if measures to prevent water loss are not taken, the facility will dry up. “Waterproofing membrane will not allow water to seep into the ground. The decision to put membrane was taken after the project was approved by IIT-Roorkee. We will submit the IIT report before the court on next date of hearing,” the NBCC official said.

First Published: Sep 09, 2018 01:33 IST