"Creating green spaces in urban areas constitutes a significant improvement in the quality of the environment and people’s living conditions. They are leisure spaces and meeting places for all ages and all social categories, encouraging different sectors of the population to mix and integrate. And they have proved to be catalysts for economic activity and a source of employment, both directly and indirectly, particularly through the services provided for visitors."
His Highness the Aga Khan
Following this objective by His Highness the Aga Khan, open space development has been one of the key concerns of the project. The Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti remains one of the most densely populated settlements in Delhi. When the project began in 2007-08, five parks along the western edge of the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti were in the ownership of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), and were in a state of misuse and inaccessible to residents.
The Socio-Economic Survey carried out in 2008 revealed that under 2% of the Basti population was found to regularly access parks since the parks in the Basti had become the preserve of anti-social elements and used inappropriately, and were encroached, abused and unusable.
The project developed these spaces as ‘parks’ which are now used by all walks of life in the Basti, becoming ‘lungs’ providing fresh air to the residents. Not only this, but the recovery and landscaping of these parks have significantly contributed to the improved Quality of Life in the Basti.
These open spaces were encroached by rag-pickers and drug users, poorly maintained and as a result less than 2% of the resident population used park spaces for recreational purposes. Women hesitated in using the parks as they are poorly maintained and unsafe. Children were mostly seen playing in the narrow streets of the Basti close to their homes. Following sustained community consultation, a landscape scheme for these parks was prepared by landscape architect M Shaheer Associates, and the parks developed for specific use, such as children’s play area, a screened park for the exclusive use of women, a park for community events and a play field for youth related activities. It was agreed that three parks would have the following functions:
After the landscape designs for the parks were finalized, they were shared with community members and required changes incorporated.
In November 2009, AKTC and DDA signed an agreement that has allowed AKTC to undertake landscaping of Basti Parks. The parks are now managed by the community and landscape works are being initiated on parks on the northern and eastern end of the basti as well.
"This area used to be a dump yard with mounds of waste, unkempt parking and was a haven for gamblers. Today it has transformed into a ‘Parda Bagh’ [Literally, a veiled garden, or women’s park], which all of us women can use while our children are in school. We now have a space where we can breathe fresh air in the open."