Mehrauli Studio

November 2016 to January 2017

Mehrauli Collective - A Vision

The ancient settlement of Mehrauli is rich with history.

It is today a dense and active urban precinct of South Delhi.

A UNESCO certified World Heritage Site exists here and this draws visitors from all over the world.

The urban character of Mehrauli is defined by its historic monuments, which is evident to the itinerant visitor; as well as by the dilapidated state of its civic infrastructure, which is the day to day reality experienced by its inhabitants.

The Mehrauli Collective was formed by a group of voluntary organisations who shared a belief in the principle of 'urban renewal by citizens'.  Our objective is to apply this idea in Mehrauli where the many layers of history can provide a matrix for collective action to emerge.

To test this belief we decided to initiate a prototypical exercise in one significant public place in Mehrauli, the neighbourhood of Adam Khan's tomb (better known as Bhul Bhulayian by the local people), with the adjacent bus terminus on one side and the regional park called Sanjay Van on the other. The area is intersected by the busy road which runs through the main markets of Mehrauli all along the ridge defining its topography.

The proposition to be demonstrated here is that urban renewal in such a physically charged and sociologically complex environment is best initiated and led by local residents who will have a primary stake in maintaining a healthy and convivial environment. This will allow people to connect better with their history and generate value for their cultural assets. The exercise will be carefully documented in various media, to be showcased as a model of urban regeneration. 

The Mehrauli Collective has the range of skills and expertise to assist the local citizen groups and organisations on technical issues, to interface with public authorities, and to monitor effective implementation of physical objectives. 

The Bhul Bhulayian environmental improvement project will have a minimum time span of 18 months. This will be the first phase of the Mehrauli urban renewal project, which could extend for another few years till the ethos of the collective has spread throughout the settlement. Background research for the project has been going on since the beginning of 2014 CE. We are now at the stage of starting on the first phase as outlined above. The Mehrauli Collective now seeks funding partners who find merit in the approach that can be extended over time to benefit most cities in the country. 


Mehrauli Environment Improvement Program


Mehrauli, a dense and active precinct of South Delhi, is rich with history. A UNESCO certified World Heritage Site, the Qutub Minar complex in Mehrauli attracts visitors from all over the world.

The urban character of Mehrauli is defined by its historic monuments, and by the state of civi infrastructure.

As a city, Mehrauli suffers from ecological stress, on account of,

  • unregulated building activity
  • traffice chaos
  • neglected public spaces
  • unplanned public utilities

as typically dysfunctional elements, which has resulted in a dosconnect of urban form with history.

History gives value to community life. The many layers of history which define Mehrauli provide the matrix for collective action to bind community.

The urban improvement program for Mehrauli seeks a regeneration of the historic settlement through a process of social and economic change. This will be possible when people connect with their environment and build on shared values, community capability, and cross-sectoral collaboration. The requirements, needs and aspirations, of the inhabitants of Mehrauli are adressed by a number of public programs undertaken by agencies of the State government as well as by community based organisations. Clearly there is a disconnect between the providers and consumers of the services, since environmental conditions are in a state of decay. We believe that a third actor is required to bridge the rift between the service providers and consumers. The bridge can be constructed by the introduction of expert knowledge in many facets of the challenge of urban renewal in a historic and socially complex environment.

Greha, a society for research on human habitat, registered in 1986 as a charitable society, has been working in this field for several decades and is now offering expertise in urban planning and design, architecture, building technology, history, social science, and development and communication, in an integrated framework, to address the civic and monumental problems of Mehrauli.

Greha is also part of the Mehrauli Collective, which is an association of NGO's working in Mehrauli with the local people to raise awareness about urban issues and their technicalities and possible solutions. The Mehrauli Collective will provide the community anchor, essential for the environment improvement program to be realized.

Program Phases

The program will be divided into three phases, based on location within Mehrauli. These locations have been prioritized on account of historic value of the heritage assets in the area, and the nature of use of the place by the local people.

As part of the overall visions to 'initiate a process of social and economic regeneration of the area', th eiam of the program in each of the phases will be,

  • Improvement in the condition of the heritage assets
  • Upgradation of usable public space for the community and visitors
  • Improvement in the basic infrastructure - drainage, sewerage and lighting
  • Regulation of mobility

Implementation Framework

There is a need to first identitfy the schemes and programs of the various government agencies which are in place in Mehrauli. Once these schemes are identified, cross sectoral relationships can be rationalized and inter agency coordination worked out.

Simultaneously, the Mehrauli Collective can work with community base organisations and local opinion makers to chart out new initiatives for sustainable tourism.

Componets and Timeline

Following are components and timeline for Phase 1 of the Mehrauli Environment Improvement Program

S.No Stage Components Duration



  • Identify and documnt existing programs under various state

agencies to coordinate implementation framework

  • Mobilisation, research and documentation of community

based organisations ad local aspirations

2 months



  • Identifying and designing an integrated and historically appropriate

program for environment improvement

  • Initiating the implementation of the above program by formation

of task forces for discrete program packages

6 months



  • Monitoring the ongoing work of environment improvement
  • Training of field personnel within agencies and community based

organisations for long term monitoring

12 months
  TOTAL   20 months


Project Team

  • MN Ashish Ganju, Architect

President at Greha

Overall Direction and Planning

  • Savyasaachi, Sociology an Cultural Anthropology Expert

Professor and former HOD of Sociology at Jamia Milia Islamia

Community Engagement Activities

  • Parul Kiri Roy, Architect

Assistant Professor, School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi

Research, documentation, design and monitoring

  • Uditi Agarwal, Urban Designer


Research, documentation, design and monitoring

  • Henri Fanthome, Architect

Greah and Visiting faculty at School of Planning and Architecture, Dlehi

Research, documentation, design and monitoring

Resource Persons

  • KL Nadir, Political Scientist and Policy Planner

Former Professor at Delhi University, IIT Delhi, and TVB School of Habitat Studies, New Delhi

  • Swapna Liddle, Historian

Convenor, INTACH Delhi Chapter

  • Surajit Sarkar, Communication Expert

Professor and Head, Centre of Community Knowledge, Ambedkar University, Delhi