Sunder Nursery, city’s new oasis

Sunder nursery
In 1924, Azim Bagh, just a kilometre away from the capitol complex of Raisina Hill, housed the rarest plant species brought in from British colonies across the world. Then part of the historic Grand Trunk Road, this is where plants for all the open spaces and the boulevards of Lutyens' Delhi came from.

Sunder Nursery might no longer flaunt all those rare species, but the 67-acre plot, after lying in neglect for decades, is now part of an ambitious city park project launched by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in association with the Central Public Works Department (CPWD). The third phase of the Sunder Nursery Landscape Plan, which was drawn up in 2007, is now in implementation and has been carefully worked out to connect the ecology and culture of the space. Called the micro-habitat zone, this will showcase four distinct zones of Delhi's original landscape — Kohi (ridge), Bangar (alluvial), Khadar (riverine) and Dabar (marsh). The project is expected to be completed in four years.

AKTC officials working on the project said the landscaped plot will have a prominent ridge with lakes running around the nine heritage structures within the zone. Designated as a district park in the Delhi Masterplan, the nursery will include greenhouses, area for flower shows and visitor amenities such as cafes and an interpretation centre. By putting together all of this, the zone is expected to create a meaningful visitor experience and a space that will offer opportunities for recreation, education and discovery.

This will include the creation of nine large mounds with large stone blocks. The mounds are now being planted with species originally found in the ridge. All plant saplings have already been procured and are ready for plantation this season, officials said.

CPWD Deputy Director General R B Verma said, "Sunder Nursery will become a world-class nursery with significant educational, cultural and ecological facilities. With over 300 tree varieties, several thousand plant varieties, a bonsai collection, greenhouses and visitor facilities, we are hoping this will be a nature lover's dream destination."

Within the nursery stand nine monuments, including the ASI protected Sundarwala Burj, Sundarwala Mahal and Lakkarwala Burj. All these monuments are now undergoing careful conservation my master craftsmen using traditional building materials, tools and building techniques. A peripheral road has been constructed around the nursery that will ensure visitors move around systematically and not trample over the green cover.

"The park development and linkages with Humayun's Tomb Complex will lead to the creation of an ecological cultural zone and hopefully expansion of the World Heritage Site. This is in line with other AKTC projects in cities such as Cairo, Lahore, Zanzibar, Mali, Kabul and Alleppo," Ratish Nanda, Project Director, AKTC told Newsline.

Landscape consultant M Shaheer added: "The project provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the integration of environment, heritage and a working nursery through sensitive landscape design."

"While the timber section has plants that are over 50 or 60 years old, for the rest of the nursery we are looking for special species of plants that will survive in Delhi's climate. Delhi already has 256 species of trees and we are now in the process of bringing in over 100 more species from regions like Eastern Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, parts of Haryana and the sub-Himalayan tracts. The planting style is being designed to evoke the Mughal charbagh," said Pradip Krishen, consultant for the project and author of Trees of Delhi.

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