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Window Seat: Ahmedabad and Sabarmati River

15/03/2020 at 6:00 AM

I had recently been to Ahmedabad. Thanks to US President Donald Trump’s much publicized visit to the city, everybody now knows that it is the commercial capital of Gujarat (though diamond and cloth merchants of Surat would beg to differ) with the largest Cricket stadium of the world.

Ahmedabad is the seventh largest city in the country with a population of about 6 million people and growing at a breakneck speed. The city has expanded from an area of 90 sq km in 1971 to 464.16 sq km in 2009.

Sabarmati river, on the bank of which Gandhi had his ashram shifted in 1917, near which100 years later Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew in a sea plane – flows right in the middle of the city. In fact it divides the city into eastern and western parts. Most of the industries are located in the eastern part of the city, whereas the western part is predominantly a residential and commercial area.

The city falls in a dry and arid climatic zone. It receives an average rainfall on 782 mm, mostly in the monsoon months.

The Sabarmati river, originating in the Aravalli hills in Rajasthan, flows for a length of 371 km in the southwest direction, then joins the Gulf of Khambat and finally meets the Arabian Sea. It is not a perennial river.

Presently, the river stretch in Ahmedabad is being fed from the Narmada river water at Chiloda, due to the development of the riverfront. As the river flows through the city, there are a few storm water inlets, which open up into the river.

Downstream of the city, treated sewage and industrial effluents are discharged into the river from seven sewage treatment plants (STPs) and two pipelines carrying treated industrial effluents.

A recent study (published in EPW) has analysed the impacts of Ahmedabad on the Sabarmati river water quality.

The analysis of the water quality highlights that the river undergoes complete degradation when it leaves the city, although the water quality meets the norms when the river enters the city Downstream at Miroli, after the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents, the river water quality degrades completely.

The river becomes “dead,” that is, the dissolved oxygen in  water becomes zero when it leaves the city, after receiving the sewage discharge from the STPs and the industrial effluents.

The impact of seasonal variations on the river quality is not significant.The river also exhibits the presence of heavy metals in concentrations more than the desired levels.

Sabarmati is dying. Instead of spending crores on doing a ‘Namaste Trump’ like mega event, the government should look after the river which has sustained the city for centuries.

Ahmedabad

The history of the city of Ahmedabad is marked by a number of high points followed by declines. The earliest history has it that King Karandev I – the Solanki ruler, once fought a war against the Bhil King Ashapall or Ashaval.

After his victory, Karandev established the city of ‘Karnavati’. The Hindu kingdom of Karnavati remained an important kingdom till the early 15th century when Gujarat fell under the Muslim Sultanate.Sultan Ahmed Shah founded Ahmedabad in 1411 A.D. He and subsequent rulers built the city.

In 1753, the combined forces of RaghunathRao and DamajiGaekwad attacked the city and captured it, resulting in the end of Mughal rule in Ahmedabad.

Many historians opine that the city saw its worst phase in the 64 years during the rule of Gaekwads and Peshwas. It was later in 1818 that the British took over the administration of Ahmedabad.

In 1915, Mahatma Gandhi returned from South Africa and established an ashramat Kochrab area of Ahmedabad. Two years later the ashram was shifted to a piece of open land on the banks of the river Sabarmati.

Reasons for this shift included: Gandhi wanted to do some experiments in community living. He wanted to do farming, animal husbandry, Khadi and related constructive activities, for which he was in search of this kind of barren land.

This area also had a mythological connect. It was believed to be the ashram site of Rishi Dadhichi who had donated his bones for a righteous war. It was in sync with his objective of sacrifice. The land was situated between a jail and a crematorium.

That also suited him as he believed that a satyagrahi had to invariably go to either of the places. The Sabarmati Ashram (also known as Harijan Ashram) was home to Gandhi from 1917 until 1930 and served as one of the main centres of India’s  freedom struggle.

On 12 March 1930 he vowed that he would not return to the Ashram until India won independence. Although India won her independence on 15 August 1947, Gandhi could never return to the ashram. He was assassinated in January 1948.

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Badi tanha si beparvah gujar rahi thi jindagi, Ghalib

Ab e alam hai ki ek chink vi aa jai to dunia gour se dekhti hai

I was living without any care, unnoticed O Ghalib

The situation has so changed that if I just sneeze,

the entire world stares at me.

***

A journalist turned media academician the columnist lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. mrinalchatterjeeiimc@gmail.com

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