Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) has rejected the proposal to redevelop lawns 4 and 5 at C-Hexagon of India Gate; months after the ongoing work had attracted many objections. Pointing out that the work being done by CPWD is ‘not in spirit of the central vista heritage zone’; DUAC has asked the central agency to reconsider the whole project.
The India Gate redevelopment project had come under public scrutiny during the ongoing work for National War Memorial, and changes done for “uniformity and design”, appeared to alter the original, unique character of the iconic landmark. Well known for its vast open lawns, restrictions on entry, pedestrian plazas, and fencing around the open lawns would change the nature of the India Gate space. Many architect bodies had then come out to oppose the redevelopment plans and petitioned DUAC to halt the project.
DUAC now agrees that India Gate should remain the same as much as possible and dismissed the proposed changes. “Musical fountains in the water body are not acceptable. Large lawn surfaces are proposed to be converted into hard surfaces which should be avoided. The proposal seems to have been over-designed by creating too many elements which do not seem to respect the spirit of central vista heritage zone,” read the minutes of the meeting issued by DUAC.
While the ‘too many elements’ has not been explained, sources say it could include the fencing, redesigning and many other changes in the area. “The additional pedestrian path proposed as entry plaza/sitting deck is disturbing the integrity of the existing design and, therefore, needs to be looked into. Only indigenous trees need to be planted in the spirit of the original design. No new row of trees is to be planted. The tourist plazas proposed in lawns 5 and 6 need reconsideration,” said a DUAC official.
Interestingly, no government agency seems to be taking ownership of the ongoing work. Prabhakar Singh, Director General, CPWD said, “We are not doing the India Gate project any longer. It is now with NDMC.” But NDMC officials said they have not yet made any proposals on India Gate and are still in the process of ‘transition’. “It is too early to comment and we have not decided anything. We are still planning to make a presentation to the Centre,” said a top official. At least four of the six parks forming C-Hexagon are being fenced, modifying the openness of the grassy stretch. Of these, children’s park was already a fenced area, while three constitute the National War Memorial which is under the ministry of defence.
Experts are happy that DUAC has finally intervened, though they feel it has come very late. Arunav Dasgupta, Head of urban design, School of Planning and Architecture, said, “The issue was taken up because it was raised in the public domain repeatedly. Work had happened without approval and that is why a petition to DUAC was made. We wanted to know the type and nature of approvals given, scope of work allowed, etc. We got no response. It was obviously not a legal act, and it was being subjected to legal scrutiny. Hopefully, the whole project will be re-evaluated and public opinion sought. It is best to get a third party evaluation.”