Vehicle-free Ajmal Khan Road takes shoppers by surprise

Visitors to the busy Karol Bagh market in Central Delhi were in for a surprise Wednesday. The market’s main Ajmal Khan Road, which for decades has remained clogged with haphazard parking and encroachment, was all clear for pedestrians. What’s more, it even had shiny new street furniture such as garden lamps and benches.

The street has been marked with yellow and white strips demarcating space for hawkers and is now lined with potted plants. Bollards were put at the entry points of Ajmal Khan Road — on Pusa Road and Arya Samaj Road — to restrict entry of vehicles to the road, which is now a no-vehicle zone.

Officials said as of now, only half of the 1km road is open to pedestrians and soon, the whole of the Ajmal Khan Road will be earmarked for pedestrians. The Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation has also launched a project to remove vehicles from Chandni Chowk, likely to be completed early next year.

Officials of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, which is implementing the project, said the space between the yellow line and the white line – in the centre of the road — has been designated a multi-utility zone (MUZ) where benches, kiosks, vendors, water ATMs, mobile toilets, smart poles and dustbins will be installed. A three metre wide non-motorised vehicle lane will run along the tree line, where only cycles and e-rickshaws will be allowed.

Varsha Joshi, commissioner, North Delhi Municipal Corporation, said the plan is being executed in coordination with all stakeholders, including the traders’ association, for inclusive development of the market.

“The plan includes pedestrianisation of a 1km stretch of Ajmal Khan Road from Karol Bagh Metro station to Desh Bandhu Gupta Road. Currently, a 600-metre stretch from the Metro station to Arya Samaj Road has been opened to pedestrians, the remaining stretch will be opened soon. The project also envisages one-way traffic circulation and parking management on Saraswati Road, Gurdwara Road, Tank Road, Padam Singh Road, Hardhyan Singh Road and Pyarelal Road,” Joshi said.

Another civic official said roughly 300 cars used to be parked on Ajmal Khan Road, which are now being parked at Shastri Park surface parking and Bank Street parking.

Knowledge partner to the Union ministry of home affairs, Anuj Malhotra, who is assisting the north Delhi municipality in this project, said the Karol Bagh Market upgrade plan was initially proposed by the UTTIPEC in January 2010. He said a trial run was conducted in 2011 but due to some reasons, the project could not take off. He said the municipality decided to revive the project after a high-power committee was formed by the ministry of home affairs in 2018 on decongestion of Delhi.

“Walking down the street is a pleasure now. There are no vehicles to disturb us,” Jaya Tiwari, a bank professional, said.

“It is a good initiative and it will help in decongestion of the area and curb pollution. But such beautification projects have a flip side as the nature of these projects is to push away the poor who sleep on footpaths at night. Public places are for everyone,”said Moulshri Joshi, a city based architect.

First Published:
May 02, 2019 06:26 IST

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