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How Sunder Nursery is wowing lakhs of visitors without government doles

Oct 17, 2022

NEW DELHI : The World Heritage Site of Sunder Nursery, an oasis in the concrete desert of a metropolitan city, is a perfect model for the creation and maintenance of public parks without the use of government funds. Over six lakh people visited the central Delhi nursery in 2021 even though the park was closed for four months due to Covid-19. 

Over 100 people are employed by the park to look after horticulture, maintenance, housekeeping and security. Management trustee Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has been able to create a platform for people that truly meets the expectation of a veritable ‘central park’ for the capital. It is with such an aim that AKTC has partnerships with other agencies such as Beejom, which has created an organic farm there, The According to available figures, during summers nearly 12,000 people visited Sunder Nursery every week, of which around 50% came on the weekends. AKTC expects a 50% increase in visitors inthe coming winter months. 

Ratish Nanda, CEO, AKTC, told TOI that after several years of discussions, the trust took over the management of Sunder Nursery in 2018 for a period of 10 years. AKTC spends Rs 18-20 crore annually in managing and running Sunder Nursery. “We are committed to ensuring financial sustainability and development of Sunder Nursery. Until this is achieved,the Aga Khan Development Network will provide funds to bridge any shortfall between revenue collection and the expenditure in managing the park,” said Nanda, adding that revenue is generated through ticket sales and rental of the park’s cultural spaces such as the amphitheatre. 

Nanda said that this year, the management trust has also received approval to seek corporate social responsibility funding and money from other sources and said this was important not a single paisa is provided by the government for World Heritage Site’s upkeep. The management trust was created under the aegis of the Union housing and urban affairs ministry, with all parties to the 2007 memorandum of understanding as trustees. 

The 2007 MoU was signed among the Archaeological Survey of India, Central Public Works Department, Municipal Corporation of Delhi and AKTC to enable a major urban conservation and development project to be undertaken across the 300 acres of the Humayun’s Tomb complex, including Sunder Nursery and the Nizamuddin Basti. 

The MoU enabled AKTC to devote both technical expertise andsignificant funds to develop Sunder Nursery into the popular heritage park that is now publicly known as an expansive green spot for Delhiites. Besides, the park also conserves six historical monuments within the complex. 

Traditional building crafts were employed to restore the grandeur of the monuments and in 2016, the complex secured the World Heritage Site designation for six monuments and in 2020, it won twin UNESCO awards, one for excellence in conservation work, the other for sustainable development. 

The landscape master plan was conceived by renowned landscape architect, the late M Shaheer, and it earmarks distinct spaces for heritage, forest, nursery, cultural events and leisure. This has today enabled the creation of a diverse range of attractions within the 90acre park. In early 2009, the landscape master plan for Sunder Nursery was approved by Delhi Urban Art Commission and the designing of the green space had commenced. 

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