The Tale of Sabarmati’s Narmada River Front – Story by Design Dalda

Sabarmati's Narmada River Front - A story by Design Dalda

Share Post:

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Narmada River Front

It is a dusty and dry winter morning, I am transiting through Ahmedabad, with 3 hours to kill. Stunning black and white images of Charles Correa’s sparse tribute to the Father of the Nation had remained somewhere in my sub-conscious. I decide to go to the Sabarmati Ashram.

As the Uber negotiates the famous Ahmedabad traffic I wonder what this Ashram must have been like in the times of Mahatma Gandhi – a gentle wafting breeze from the flowing waters of the Sabarmati, huge trees, stone steps leading down to the river.
We’ve left the famed traffic behind and are whizzing past huge walls of concrete and a brimful of water. I ask the driver about the river, “Sir we are in it!”, he says, “This road that we are travelling on is within the original river bed”

The Tale of Sabarmati's Narmada River Front - Story by Design Dalda 1
Travelers soaking in the winter sun as another prepares for a selfie: Photo © Design Dalda

I am soon at the Ashram, dated 1917, 36 acres of land on the banks of the Sabarmati. Sabarmati, one of the few important west flowing rivers in India, 371 km in length, emerging in the Rajasthan Aravalli, after travelling 9.5km it enters Gujarat. A brave river, that despite its relatively dry origins flowed perennial to the Gulf of Cambay, at least till 1976, that is when the Dharoi dam upstream of Ahmedabad became operational. (The same year a barrage at Vasna just downstream of Ahmedabad also became functional). This turned the fortunes of the Sabarmati and for most of the year the Sabarmati was reduced to a trickle. Slowly and surely industrial and domestic sewage took over and the river was reduced to a drain. Every once in a while, the rain in the upper catchments of the Sabarmati would upset the calculations of Hardoi’s planners and the sluice gates would be opened with a mere 24 hour notice to the downstream, including the city of Ahmedabad. For a few days the Sabarmati would recapture its bed and spill into Ahmedabad upsetting lives and property.

Enter the Sabarmati river front project. For 10.4 km, the Sabarmati’s river bed, varying between 330 to 382 metre was disciplined to a uniform 275 metre width. This effort required about 22 km of concrete diaphragm wall of average height 15 metre and thickness 60 cm, concrete embankments of 4 – 6 m height, concrete anchor slabs, and concrete retaining walls, creating a total storage capacity of 10-12 million cubic metre of water. It also involved displacing everything that was in this entire width and beyond – people, homes, markets, trees and other similar development collaterals. There are many justifications of this mammoth project, one of which is flood control, another is that of providing the city of Ahmedabad a clean flowing river.

But where would this water come from? Not from the Sabarmati, which even in its prime, other than the monsoons never exhibited this kind of exuberance. Ahmedabad with a population of about 6 million produces a significant volume of sewage on a daily basis, which if treated would perhaps provide the water required for a project like this one. In this age of ‘smart’ perhaps from treated sewage? Well not really, the project displaced the sewage, i.e. it stopped 10 major and 6 minor channels comprising the sewage outflows, storm water channels and drains from pouring into this stretch of the river and diverted them to a point downstream, just beyond where this famous river front ends.

So then where does the water come from? The Narmada! Specifically, from an extensive network of canals that carry the water from the series of large dams on the Narmada and its tributaries that submerged many households, farms, forests – another set of development’s collateral damage.

An RTI filed about a year ago by a farmer activist asked Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited among other questions details on “the amount of water released daily in MLD from the Sardar Sarovar Yojana into the riverfront between 1st July 2017 and 12th January 2018” ; to which the response was, “101819.93 ML water was released in the Sabarmati river for AMC drinking water / for irrigation purposes through the Fatehwadi Canal / for Torrent Power industrial usage…”

In addition to AMC drinking water and Torrent power needs, a significant % of the water in the 10.4 km length would also be lost to evaporation, ground recharge. Though it is difficult to visualize what 101819.93 ML water would have meant for irrigation, clearly only a small part of it could go back for irrigation.

One ancient tale goes that every year, the mother Ganga, the epitome of purity enters the Narmada as a black cow, an embodiment perhaps of its status after all the purification it does and abuse it suffers. This black cow emerges from its dip in the Narmada purified and rejuvenated in the form of a beautiful white cow. At the Sabarmati river front the mirage provided by the Narmada waters end at Vasna barrage, beyond which the Mahatma’s Sabarmati enters one its worst polluted stretch reclaiming its status of one the 15 most polluted rivers in India.

Share your comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You May Also Like

Central Vista

Off The Cuff: Have We Lost Our Vista? – Interim Thoughts On A Work In Progress – Rahoul B. Singh

As a nation we are about to embark on democratic India’s most symbolic project – the re-development of New Delhi’s central vista. The central vista and it’s precinct is approximately three kilometre long and stretches from Rahstrapati Bhawan on the west to India Gate on the east. The redevelopment of this tract of land and other land parcels adjoining it will cost the exchequer upwards of Rs. 20,000 crore and is being undertaken to commemorate 75 years of India’s Independence in 2022. Other objectives of the project include increasing the productivity and efficiency of the government and expanding and improving the quality of public space that falls within its immediate precinct.

Read More »

Michelle Poonawalla at Art.Lab, Dubai, and the Mediations Biennale, Poland

“I​am delighted to be able to show ‘From Dust to Dust’ alongside leading artists in the digital sphere. I like to produce immersive and engaging artworks which create an experience for the viewer so for me World Art Dubai is a great opportunity for as many people of different nationalities and age groups to see my work as possible. It is also great to be back showing work in Dubai after the success of Introspection at Alserkal Avenue last year” Michelle​ Poonawalla

Read More »
Kateel Restaurant, at Pune, by Oorvi Designs

Kateel Restaurant, at Pune, by Oorvi Designs

Sanjiv Ram Shetty, an experienced restaurateur, gave us a challenge of refurbishing his place into a Garden-style Restaurant. Creating a cosy & beautiful ambience as well as creating awareness among the customers. The refurbishment needed to complete in shortest possible time, with two main criteria- reusing materials as much as possible & imbibing the feel of nature inside the place. – Oorvi Designs

Read More »
Penthouse By The River, at Dumas road, surat, by The Concept Lab

Penthouse By The River, at Dumas road, surat, by The Concept Lab

A 5,000 square-feet penthouse on the 11th floor of a sky-rise had a lot going for IT space, and on eviably edited panorama of the river-side, on puffy white clouds, clear blue sky and the green tops of verdant trees.

In a house hanging in the clouds with french windows on every side space, in its absolute abundance became a defining factor. And it began with pairing down the six-bedroom to four-bedroom for this family of three. – The Concept Lab

Read More »


The site for the new Culture and Congress Centre at Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina lies at the edge of the town today, as an anchor for the developing city to the East. As part of the city’s strategic goals of developing as a South East European centre for culture, tourism and services, the design brief emphasised a facility that would have the flexibility to accommodate multiple activities, events and functions within it. It also laid emphasis on the Centre being a symbolic entity of the renewed city. – Jude D’Souza

Read More »
Centre For Research and Development of Indegenous Technology, at Karnathu village, Himachal Pradesh, by Bhavesh Masand

Centre For Research and Development of Indegenous Technology, at Karnathu village, Himachal Pradesh, by Bhavesh Masand

From the city bar, as a drunk man returns home, he’s faced with unusual difficulties reaching home this time. During the course of his journey, he sensed his house keys slipping from his pocket in the dark highway, nonetheless he continued haltless. On arrival at home, he’s frantic in search of his lost keys to which his friend enquired- “why are you searching the keys in this light while you know it slipped on the highway?” To which the drunkard responds – “ Because this is where the light is, crazy!” – Bhavesh Masand

Read More »

Subscribe to Architecture and Design Updates