Mughal-era garden in Delhi refurbished with revival of lake and a modern nursery | Latest News Delhi

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After decades of neglect, and serving as an informal dumping point for garbage, the four-acre lake inside the 17th century Roshanara Bagh in north Delhi has been given a new lease of life.

Roshanara Bagh on Tuesday. The Mughal-era garden has the tomb of Roshanara Begum, the daughter of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan . (Vipin Kumar/HT photo)
Roshanara Bagh on Tuesday. The Mughal-era garden has the tomb of Roshanara Begum, the daughter of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan . (Vipin Kumar/HT photo)

Fed with steady trickle of water from a nearby water treatment plant, the lake’s periphery hosts landscaped walkways, red sandstone shelters, gazebos, and play areas for kids — features that are part of a larger plan to give a facelift to the Mughal-era garden.

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A senior Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) official said that the lake has been filled with water after three-and-a-half years of development work.

“The lake bed was cleared of weeds and excavated. Stone pitching has been carried out along the periphery of the lake. The lake is now fed water by a decentralised sewage treatment plant and channels have been developed along the lake periphery so that rainwater during monsoon gets collected in the water body,” the civic official said, asking not to be named.

However, the rejuvenation of the garden is not restricted to the lake alone. The Bagh, a pleasure garden on the outskirts of Shahjahanabad, was constructed under the patronage of Shahjahan’s daughter Roshanara Begum. The princess was later buried inside the garden.

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Laid out in 1650 AD, the garden served as a large public space in the city for centuries, but fell into obscurity over the past few decades. Signs of neglect were visible on Roshanara’s tomb, an ASI-protected structure, that has undergone only piecemeal repairs over the years, deteriorating along with its surroundings.

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Maulvi Zafar Hasan, ASI’s deputy superintendent, who prepared the first list of monuments worthy of conservation in 1916, said that Roshanara Bagh is said to have contained other buildings, but only few structures were left. Currently, the tomb, a 17th century eastern gateway, and the water channel between the gateway and the Baradari (a building or pavilion with twelve doors designed to allow free flow of air) survive. The channels are dry.

Reviving the lake

The proposal for rejuvenation of the lake was first floated in December 2018, after directions from the National Green Tribunal (NGT), when the erstwhile North Delhi Municipal Corporation announced that it will feed the lake from groundwater and excess seepage from Delhi Metro tunnels. In June 2020, the plan was modified to include a decentralised treatment plant to maintain the water level in the lake. In February last year, MCD said that the central government has agreed to provide 11 crore for Roshanara Bagh rejuvenation project, as part of a project for restoration of 20 water bodies across Delhi.

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The Delhi Jal Board, under its “city of lakes” project, had developed a decentralised sewage treatment plant (d-STP) to clear more than 2.25 million litres of waste water to provide a regular supply to the lake. The physicochemical treatment now serves as the primary modern source of water for the lake. “In the past, the lake was said to have been fed by the Najafgarh drain and its associated channels. The twin system of d-STP and monsoon rains will now keep the lake recharged which will also help in increasing the groundwater levels in the city,” the MCD official said.

Apart from rejuvenating the lake, MCD has also arranged seating area and gazebos on the lake island hosting a rare old grove of date palms in the middle of the water body. In the coming months, the corporation also plans start boating on the lake. “A ghat with staircases has been developed at the corner of the waterbody. It is still being excavated to make it deeper. Once the water reaches this point, it can serve as the entry point for the boating section,” the civic official added.

Spot check
During a visit to Roshana Bagh on Wednesday, HT found that the 57-acre garden was abuzz with activity. Dozens of horticulture department workers wearing fluorescent green jackets were busy sprucing up the garden, adding new plant saplings, washing the newly created walkways and sitting areas.

A second municipal official said that grilles will be installed along the periphery of the lake to make it safer. A play zone for children along the lake periphery is guarded by a fence. MCD has also developed bamboo furniture to create sitting areas, including a machaan (elevated platform) in the nursery adjoining the garden. The polyhouse-based climate-controlled nursery is a first of its kind facility developed by MCD. The second official said that the nursery is producing 30,000-40,000 saplings that cannot be grown in the open environment.

An official overseeing operations said that MCD is now able to grow winter plants such as pines all through the year in the nursery’s controlled environment. “A school of gardening has also been developed in the nursery complex with a training room, administrative office and cafeteria. The school building in the form of a shed is nearing completion. It will be used to offer gardening courses,” the second official said.

Delhi lieutenant governor (LG) VK Saxena visited the Bagh in June 2022, and directed officials to add new facilities. On March 16, Saxena inspected the ongoing restoration work and said the capital will soon get a new tourist destination with the “heritage makbara” (heritage tomb) of Begum Roshanara.

“The makeover of the historic Roshanara Bagh since my first visit on 18.6.22 has started to become visible. Work for restoration & rejuvenation of this 57-acre asset with a lake, garden, nursery, walkways and public utilities right in the heart of the City is in progress. The heritage Makbara of Begum Roshanara is being restored to its glory & the park around it will be adorned with flowers & plants. The water body is slowly but surely coming to life. North Delhi eagerly awaits the Capital’s new destination,” Saxena wrote in a post on X after his visit to the facility.

MCD mayor Shelly Oberoi did not comment on the project despite repeated attempts.

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