It is hoped that a massive riverfront development project will rejuvenate India's relationship to the Ganges, by cleaning up pollution and providing architectural programs that aid in community engagement and facilitate religious tradition.
A redevelopment project that will rehabilitate a 210km stretch of the Ganges has been released by Delhi-based firm Morphogenesis. With a focus on the development of platform structures leading down to the river (known as ghats) and the crematoriums that sit along the banks of the river, the project will ensure effective abatement of the river’s pollution, while at the same time working to conserve and rejuvenate it. Entitled A River in Need, the rehabilitation project is part of the larger National Mission of Clean Ganga (NMCG), an undertaking of the Indian Government’s Ministry of Water Resources that was formed in 2011.
Elevated platforms help reduce pollution and stabilise the river-edge.
Revered by India’s vast Hindu population, the Ganges is believed to be a source of healing. In the Hindu faith, upon the occasion of death, one’s ashes are scattered in the water as a symbol of returning the body to the five elements and assuring rebirth. As the Ganges is a major body of water – the longest river in India – it is readily used for this sacred practice. Unfortunately, the reality of dumping tons of cremated remains into the river, along with litres of industrial runoff and raw sewerage, means that the Ganges is also the most polluted river in the world – causing an estimated 600,000 deaths annually through water-borne diseases.
With a growing population and increasing densification, the need for more spaces for community and public engagement is becoming an imperative for the country. The urban intervention proposed by Morphogenesis is designed to facilitate a different interaction between the river and the city’s occupants by providing a sustainable interface that will change how the river is used and provide appropriate spaces catering to civic and religious needs. In recognising that the Ganges plays a significant role in the lives of those that dwell along its banks, Morphogenesis’s proposal delivers a culturally contextual solution. Taking into account how, where and why people utilise the river, it is the firm’s belief that they have delivered a solution that will provide a varied program that will deliver a sensitive coexistence between the people and their river.
Ghats are arranged in tiered sections to provide for a variety of uses
The aspect of rejuvenation of the river required focusing on the issues of erosion and flooding. Deforestation, resulting from the collection of the wood needed for the traditional pyre cremations, was one contributing factor to erosion, creating unstable banks along the water’s edge. To combat this problem, Morphogenesis proposes hume pipes be used to stabilise the bank until such time as the crematoria can be redesigned in order to reduce the amount of wood needed for the ritual – which in turn actually lowers the cost of the cremation, making it more affordable for struggling families.
The design of the ghats themselves is another way in which to stabilise the river banks, while also providing a convenient way for users to access the river. The proposed design combines different types of platforms to allow for different functions: extended ones to access water-transport at all levels, smaller ones for daily rituals, and large performance stages for events. The platforms sit on pillars that allow the river to flow beneath uninterrupted. Therefore, this design encourages the use of the river in a controlled way, catering to the needs of the community but leading to reduced pollution.
Redesigning the crematoria contributes to a reduction in deforestation along the banks of the Ganges
The varied program of the ghats is organised in sections based on flood-levels. Bathing spaces occupy the lowest rung, public gathering spaces and amenities sit at higher levels for safety, with ritual spaces set between. Morphogenesis also reintroduced the historic Chaupal seating structure to provide for places of community interaction. A reforestation program employs resilient greenlife to be installed at varying levels, and informal and pop-up retail facilities are incorporated to encourage activity throughout the day all year long.
New civic spaces cater to community and civic needs
Morphogenesis envisions the ghats as important urban spaces for discourse and the sharing of knowledge. As such, infrastructure that enables wifi has been enfolded into the design. The ghats will be solar powered, with solar panels installed on ‘smart column’s that will serve to provide shade, clean drinking water and internet connectivity. Also, in an attempt to reduce ecological impact, the structures will be predominantly constructed of brick with flooring constructed of porous stone to enable water to flow through.
All images courtesy of Morphogenesis