The Proposal: To use Delhi's neglected Nullah network to fundamentally transform the city. Delhi has 18 main nullahs with over 15,000 branches, which were constructed 7 centuries ago by the Tughlaq dynasty. The nullah network is 350km long, contiguous and criss-crosses the national capital. Currently, the nullahs are just unhygienic drains that are seen as a problem by the citizens of Delhi - they smell, breed mosquitoes, pollute the Yamuna and so on. However, a relatively small investment can turn the nullahs into a valuable asset for the common citizen. The necessary changes are:
1) Alternative Transport Network: Create walking/cycling paths on these nullahs to provide commuters with last mile connectivity to public transport (buses and metro). This will significantly improve the effectiveness of the existing public transport. Furthermore, people will be able to walk/cycle for short distances (and it will be an enjoyable experience). Since the nullah network is 350km long - this would be a very important contribution to the lives of the common citizens.
2) Alternative Environmental Network: Use a system of micro STP’s, organic reedbeds and aerators to clean the sewage entering the nullahs at source. This is a well established system and it is both environment-friendly and cost effective. This will dramatically improve public health in the city as well as help replenish aquifers. This will also reduce the need to spend large sums on building large sewage plants and interceptor canals.
3) Alternative Cultural Network: The new network could be used to trigger a number of new urban activities ranging from tourism to sports. For instance, some of the nullahs are 700 years old and were built to provide water to Delhi's old cities. Thus, many of the city's famous archaeological sites are situated on the nullah network. Most major cultural venues in the city can be interconnected through this network, including Commonwealth Games venues, historical monuments, museums, theatres, stadiums, etc. to create a new walking network to drive next generation tourism.
The initiative aims to reuse the neglected water drainage system of Delhi; the ‘nullahs’ to progressively bring about sustainable change within the city. The nullahs restoration project presents the hidden opportunity that lies within Delhi by establishing a green and sustainable network as an alternative and democratic source of engagement within the city of Delhi.