The transformation of SABARMATI

State governments and local civic bodies across India are eagerly monitoring the remarkable improvement that has taken place along one of the most famous rivers in the country, the Sabarmati

WORDS: N.B. RAO

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The Sabarmati is one of the most prominent rivers in India. This westward flowing river actually originates in the Aravalli Range of the Udaipur District of Rajasthan and meets the Gulf of Cambay of Arabian Sea after travelling 371 km in a south-westerly direction across Rajasthan and Gujarat. As per legend, Lord Shiva brought the goddess Ganga towards Gujarat and this is how the river actually came into being. The ancient river was then known as Bhogwa, and on the banks emerged the two cities of Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. Today, both cities reflect the wealth and grandeur of the Gujarat State – as being commercial and political hubs.
However, the Sabarmati gained much international repute in the early 1900’s when Mahatma Gandhi set up his ashram on its banks in 1917. Of course, since then the river saw much activity during his lifetime including various historic incidents involving India’s freedom struggle like the ‘Dandi March’ in 1930.

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Taking forward the Mahatma’s legacy, the Sabarmati today is reckoned as one of the most well maintained rivers in India, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of the prevailing State Government and of the people of Gujarat. The Ahmedabad Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project which was set up in 1997 began winning several laurels after the river – which had been neglected for decades – began reflecting its past glory.

THE INNOVATIVE RIVERFRONT PROJECT
Under the Sabarmati Riverfront project, a waterfront is being constructed wherein visitors and residents of Ahmedabad can enjoy the beauty of the river for recreational, sustainable and educational purposes. Since 2012, the riverfront has gradually opened up to a variety including a two-level promenade for pedestrians and cyclists, areas for hosting cultural and educational events, leisure activities like boating, public parks as well as retail areas for commercial activities. This would go a long way in building a better relationship with the river, and ensure its posterity for the residents for years to come.
The project was classified as the ‘100 Most Innovative Projects’ in urban regeneration by KPMG in one of its reports in 2012. It also won the Hudco National Award in the same year for innovative infrastructure development for the riverfront project.

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STATE GOVERNMENTS – DRAWING INSPIRATION
The dramatic transformation of the Sabarmati in recent years has seen several state governments seeking advice and tips from Gujarat on the transformation of the river.
For instance, the Uttarakhand Government is studying the drastic changes that have occurred along the Sabarmati in order to replicate the same to save the Rispana, a major source for water in Dehradun. The Government is working towards constructing a similar riverfront in Dehradun to resemble the Sabarmati one in Ahmedabad.
Down south in Telangana, the Musi Riverfront Development Corporation, which has been tasked with transforming the water body, is also keen on following the footsteps of Gujarat and replicate the Sabarmati success story.
Similarly, other states are also closely monitoring the measures deployed in recent years to improve the river in Gujarat. They include Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu as well.
The Pune Municipal Corporation has planned riverfront development along the Mula and Mutha rivers in the city on the lines of the Sabarmati project.
In Madurai, the civic body, which is implementing development projects under the Smart Cities Mission, is planning to transform the two-km stretch along the Vaigai into a Sabarmati-like riverfront. The stretch will feature aesthetic walkways, gardens and a railing, S. Aneesh Sekhar, the municipal commissioner of Madurai revealed recently.