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Last Updated: Friday, 29 October, 2004, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Delhi colonial bungalows under threat

By Monica Chadha
BBC correspondent in Delhi

The late British architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, would surely have disapproved.

Lutyens bungalow in Delhi
The spacious bungalows are a Delhi landmark

Urban developers in the Indian capital Delhi plan to "redevelop" stately bungalows designed by him and construct spacious apartments to accommodate MPs.

Lutyens' Delhi, as it has come to be known, is one of the capital's heritage sites, with its wide tree-lined avenues and sprawling white mansions set far back from the road, surrounded by lush green lawns.

Most of these are occupied by senior government officials, including the prime minister and members of his cabinet as well as MPs and bureaucrats.

But now urban planning officials want to pull them down and put the land to "better use".

With its huge green cover, it provides cleaner air to more than two million people who travel through this area on a regular basis
Ratish Nanda
conservationist

A senior official of the Central Public Works Division, which is the agency responsible for constructing government buildings, told the BBC the country's urban development ministry was "seriously thinking" about the proposal.

"The idea is maximum utilisation of the acres of land available without disturbing the original concept and aesthetics," the official, who did not wish to be named, said.

"These houses were built in the early 20th Century and over the years, requirements of people living in these houses have modified. While the architectural restrictions such as height will be kept in mind, the user's requirement also needs to be considered."

The official also said the division was fully aware that it was a heritage site and all efforts would be taken to ensure there was no visible impact on the original design of Lutyens' Delhi.

Spacious

The proposal involves constructing apartments on some plots while others will continue to have bungalows.

The official said the design features would be similar but the interiors would be modified to suit the needs of today's parliamentarian.

MP in his house
The residences feature huge driveways and porticos

"For instance, today's politician may not need a big hall but a bigger study, or more room for office space. All these points will be incorporated in the new design," he said.

Lutyens' Delhi lies in the heart of the city, incorporating the parliament building, the presidential palace and government ministries.

The area also incorporates 112 bungalows to serve as residences.

Each is a spacious structure on a big plot of land with gardens, porticos and private driveways.

Besides being a heritage site, Lutyens' Delhi also features on the list of 100 endangered sites across the world published by the New York-based World Monuments Fund.

Pollution

Conservation architect Ratish Nanda says the place should be left alone.

"Lutyens' Delhi occupies only 1.7% of the total area of Delhi city," he says.

"If we have come to a point where we can't leave this tiny part alone and develop another area in the city then that's really sad."

Indian MP Sachin Pilot
Sachin Pilot says MPs needs have changed

Mr Nanda says the area is a "sacred zone, the heart and lungs of the city".

"With its huge green cover, it provides cleaner air to more than two million people who travel through this area on a regular basis," he says.

"Densification of the area will decrease the green cover and Delhi will be facing a very severe pollution problem."

MP Sachin Pilot lives in one of the bungalows and says a middle path needs to be found to resolve the issue.

"On the one hand, circumstances have changed, our requirements and demands have changed and those need to be looked into," he says.

"At the same time, we have a fantastic heritage of great architectural value and I think all care should be taken to ensure that nothing is changed or taken away from it."

Mr Pilot believes a public debate should be organised to find a solution.

The issue has now reached the Indian prime minister's office.


SEE ALSO:
Delhi's transport: Dream or nightmare?
18 Feb 03  |  South Asia
Delhi's cure for jumbo traffic problem
27 Mar 03  |  South Asia


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