Heritage, nightlife go hand in hand in Delhi’s draft Master Plan-2041
Promoting a nightlife culture, developing cultural hot spots and heritage circuits, enhancing Shahjahanabad as a cultural enterprise hub, and regenerating the Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone are some of the key features of the draft Master Plan of Delhi (MPD) 2041, the blueprint for the city’s development in the next two decades.
Recognising both the tangible and intangible heritage assets of the city, the draft, which was put in the public domain for suggestions on Wednesday, proposes the formulation of strategies that utilise the city’s strong cultural capital to boost the economy and foster unique cultural and public spaces.
Development of night circuits The thrust on the rejuvenation of the city’s nightlife seeks to inculcate a culture where people can step out for entertainment and leisure during the late hours. To achieve this, the master plan envisages the development of nightlife circuits (NCs) — streets or areas that serve as cultural precincts, as areas with a concentration of heritage assets, or areas that have a vibrant nightlife.
The identification of NCs will be the collective responsibility of local bodies, tourism department, and other concerned agencies, according to the draft document, which asks for extended timings for hotels, restaurants, sociocultural activities, entertainment, sports facilities, and retail stores, among others, in these NCs.
Laying emphasis on the need of having an active nightlife, the draft states: “Night time economies (NTE) and active nightlife are important for improving safety, reducing congestion by staggering activities, utilising spaces for different activities optimally, and improving productivity for formal as well as informal economic activities.”
It outlines efforts that agencies can jointly undertake to ensure adequate illumination, security, and easy access by public transport such as special Metro lines and bus routes. It also calls for the creation of active frontage in additional to cultural events such as themed night walks.
Manpreet Singh, treasurer of the National Restaurants Association of India, who also owns Zen restaurant in Connaught Place, welcomed the emphasis laid on nightlife. “Being an international city and the Capital of India, Delhi hosts tourists from across the globe. We need vibrant nightlife. We need people to come here and have a good time and not restrict themselves to monument visits during the day alone,” said Singh.
Heritage zones and cultural precincts
On the heritage front, the plan identifies three types of heritage/cultural clusters in the city, and proposes strategies for the development of these areas. These include heritage zones such as the Walled City of Shahjahanabad and Lutyen’s Bungalow Zone (LBZ), cultural precincts, and archaeological parks. It envisages conservation and adaptive reuse of heritage assets, and pushes for the development of cultural hot spots, public waterfronts, heritage and culture circuits, plazas, and archaeological parks.
For heritage conservation and maintenance, the plan says the locations of all heritage assets that are maintained by respective agencies should be integrated with the GIS-based Delhi Spatial Information System. It also incentivises owners of heritage buildings by suggesting that they be compensated for the loss of development rights. The unutilised FAR (floor area ratio) shall be calculated using the permissible FAR on the respective land use; owners shall also be eligible to an incentive FAR of 20 for preservation and upkeep of the heritage property retaining its original heritage character and fabric, the draft says.
Anil Pershad, 77, one of the owners of Chandni Chowk’s iconic Chunnamal Haveli, said that the proposal would go a long way, if implemented properly. “They are trying to look into ways through which conservation of heritage buildings can yield some money for owners. If the implementation is done in a straightforward manner as outlined in the draft, it will be good. There should be no grey areas,” said Pershad.
Laying emphasis on the development of LBZ, the draft calls for the formulation of development-oriented norms for its regeneration , without compromising on its heritage value and aesthetic character. In 2015, the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) proposed changing building guidelines in the LBZ, and shrinking the area by 5 square kilometre to 23 sq km. However, the LBZ guidelines prepared by the DUAC were not notified by the Centre.
Shahjahanabad as a cultural enterprise hub
Outlining the Walled City as the historical core and business centre of the city, rich in both tangible and intangible heritage, the draft proposes a multi-agency coordinated initiative for the revitalisation of Shahjahanabad.
The Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC), the local civic body, and other concerned agencies have been tasked with delineation all cultural precincts within the Walled City within two years, the implementation of a traffic management plan, and decluttering of overhead wires among other steps.
Sanjay Bhargava, president, Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, said that an autonomous body should have been tasked for the implementation of proposals outlined in the draft. “During consultations, I’d suggested that an autonomous body be appointed for the area. That has not happened. The draft proposal says that hazardous industries should be shifted out. This could have been done long ago. A lot will depend on the implementation of proposals since the issue of multiplicity of agencies hasn’t been addressed,” he said.
Talking about the importance of developing night tourism, he said that the emphasis on nightlife was needed. “Delhi by the night is something that we have propagating saying for years. Special night tours that take people around the city at night and end at the Walled City can be a great boost,” Bhargava said.