Friday, February 26, 2010

Barapullah Elevated Road and Khan Khana's Tomb

A short note to follow up on my post about construction work for the elevated road around the Barapullah bridge, in which my concluding remarks were that the separate governmental authorities need to really work together cohesively in Delhi to accommodate both conservation and development, and use Delhi's historic architecture as a unique facet of the city. Unfortunately, it looks like another section of the elevated road construction may indicate that examples of such collaboration are pretty hard to come by.

I'm talking about the stretch of the elevated road that passes in front of Khan Khana's Tomb, also in the Nizamuddin area. Khan Khana was one of the Navratans in Akbar's court, and is the same person as the poet Rahim of 2-line dohas fame.

Khan Khana's tomb hidden behind the under-construction pillars of the Barapullah Nullah elevated road

News articles from previous months state that part of the ASI's objection to the elevated road was that it will obstruct the view of Khan Khana's tomb from the adjacent Mathura Road. Due to this objection, the height of the elevated road was to be raised at this point, so that it passed over the view-line of the tomb from Mathura Road. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, it turns out that the under-construction pillars for the elevated road that lie to the east of Mathura Road, the side that the tomb is on, are right adjacent to Mathura Road, and block the view to the monument anyway. So despite the raised road height, the pillars themselves will obstruct the view of the tomb.

A closer view of the tomb and pillars. The billboard also blocks the view to the tomb, but that's a minor issue compared to the obstruction the pillars will cause

It could be argued that the proximity of the pillars to the road was required to span the road, but much larger spans are being bridged on this road itself, so the special situation of this location should definitely have warranted the extra expense of a larger span. On top of this, the pillar to the west of Mathura Road is pretty far from the road, for no apparent reason (see the panoramic photo below).

Panoramic view of the elevated road construction over Mathura Road. The pillars to the left (west) of the road are set back from Mathura Road when they needn't be, and the pillars to the right (east), which should have been set back from Mathura Road to maintain a clear view of Khan Khana's tomb (which is in the center background) from the road, aren't. Sad irony that is all too common here in Delhi (click image to enlarge)

Of course factors such as foundational needs could have dictated the placement of these pillars, but it seems really odd that the pillars east of Mathura Road couldn't have been shifted a few meters further east, thus not negating the effect that raising the elevated road is to accomplish.

To me, this seems to be just another example of bad, non-creative planning and lack of coordination.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Nila Gumbad in the News (too)

Since I wrote about Nila Gumbad and the dispute between the Railways and ASI in my previous blog post, I thought I'd go visit Nila Gumbad once again to see just what the situation was there, how close the railways line was to the monument etc. I've visited Nila Gumbad a few times before, but had always just seen it from the west - from the side of Humayun's Tomb.

The image below shows Nila Gumbad and the area around it, taken from close to the eastern pavilion that lies along the outer wall of Humayun's Tomb. The road that the ASI wants to reroute around Nila Gumbad currently passes between the monument and Humayun's Tomb. It's also very probable that in constructing the road, the arched wall connecting Nila Gumbad with Humayun's Tomb was broken, which the ASI probably wants to restore as well.

Nila Gumbad from Humayun's Tomb. The railway line is visible behind the gumbad, and the road that the ASI wants to reroute lies in front of the gumbad

On this visit I went around to the east of the monument, on the side of the railway line, and was quite shocked to see that the Nizamuddin railway station starts right next to the monument! So it's not just that the railway line passes very close to Nila Gumbad, but the railway station also begins right there. An approximately 5 meter wide area has been left around the monument, and then the railway property beings. The station and railway lines lie to the east of the monument, and there is some kind of railway storage area to the south of it. The panoramic shot below is taken from north of the monument, and shows the proximity of the station, railway line and monument.

Panoramic view showing the railway station and gumbad . Click to enlarge

As can be seen from the panoramic shot, a dirt path leads from in front (north) of the monument, which leads to a spot that is used as an informal crossing across the railway lines to the other side, i.e. towards Serai Kale Khan. I saw quite a few people using this path to cross the railway lines (there is no designated crossing on this side of the railways station). There is of course the issue of security vis-a-vis the railway station, since anyone can easily walk from here onto the platform.

But the closeness of the station really makes me see the railways point of view. There is hardly any space to construct a road around the monument on this side, and any changes to the railways station and storage area will require at least a bit of a re-think and re-design, though if they put their heads to it I'm sure they can get to a workaround (pun intended).

The board indicating the beginning of Nizamuddin railway station is clearly visible from the gumbad platform

A couple of shots of Nila Gumbad - showing the blue tile-work that give the monument it's name and make it unique