What ‘smart city’ Ahmedabad can learn from its heritage other half

Ahmedabad is the first heritage city of the country and one of the smart cities of India. It’s monsoon time in Gujarat now and the state is receiving good rains this season. Instead of being happy people are suffering whenever the city receives heavy rain. Developed Ahmedabad city faces severe water-logging issues, the city suffers water- clogging for more than 12 hours even after 3 to 4 inches of rain. On the other side, the old streets of heritage city Ahmedabad clear within half an hour even after heavy rain.

Walled city Ahmedabad is a hilly area as per the geographical situation. At that time, when the city of Ahmedabad was established, canals were built for the drainage of rainwater in the city, which are still in operation today. About 15 to 18 canals in the old city area are directly connected to the Sabarmati river, the rainwater gets quickly disposed off. The rain drainage system was built during the British era and is still functioning today.

Old Ahmedabad city is rich with a pol system; all the pols have wells to collect rainwater. The rainwater goes directly into the well. Even today, most households in the old city have a percolating well for underground water storage.

Ashish Trambadia, Director, Ahmedabad World Heritage City Trust, told IANS that the sewage and drainage systems of the walled city of Ahmedabad were established as early as the 1880s. The city until then also had surface drainage based on terrain slopes. The traditional street patterns were laid as per slopes on the eastern bank of the river. Due to good gradient till date dependency on pumping is low while the flows are well managed by natural slopes. New drainage and sewer systems follow roads which do not necessarily follow the slopes.

Rao Bahadur Ranchodlal Chotalal, the first Bhartiya president of the municipality, initiated this work. Around 1885-86, engineers from Britain as well as locals were involved in the first blueprints and laying the network. Apart from natural terrain, the generous size and custom-made design of the network in the walled city areas is very robust and makes it safe against clogging, Trambadia said.

Manvita Baradi, director, Urban Management Centre Ahmedabad, told IANS that Ahmedabad is a unique city. It was founded in 1411. The philanthropic families of Ahmedabad made this city liveable in the 1880s during the British era. They built the city’s water and sanitation system investing their own money.

Baradi added that a city develops gradually, but planning should be done to avoid civic issues. It is the duty and work of urban planners to do mapping for gutter lines and social mapping of the city properly. Its corporation’s engineering department’s duty is to work comprehensively in recognising topography and elevations of different areas. The city’s lakes play an important role in water drainage and the AMC should utilise the more than 50 lakes that the city has, they work as a sponge city.

Girish Gupta is very well connected with local people of the old city and has been managing heritage walks for 25 years now. Gujarat tourism department’s authorised heritage walk guide Gupta told IANS that Ahmedabad’s system is the only place that teaches us how to manage rainwater, how to use the wind direction and how to use the sunlight naturally in the houses of pols. We read news of water clogging in many parts of eastern and western Ahmedabad, but the old Ahmedabad does not have these issues.

This city was founded on 26th February, 1411, the drainage system is as old as this city. People have not faced such issues for 611 years. Gravitational slopes are used as roads and houses are built on the sides. The old city has sewage hollow pols with arrows that show us the underground sewers are draining in which directions. These pols also help to detox the toxic fuels, Gupta added.

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