-by Shruti Syal
It’s kind of like building your first home. Even with a fairly decent budget you rarely find a place in Delhi that’s not semi-ramshackled. It’s a mess for everyone but you. You see the little corridor and think of the lighting scheme that will veil the paucity of space. You see the oblong wall and visualize clever knick-knacks that will provide a break from the monotony of the wall. You see a boldly misshapen corner and convert it into a cove.
That’s what it’s like with these sites. The excitement of potential. Mostly the appeal at all sites is the same- linear water landscapes- but the topography, surrounding built environment, and site size, all influence site design.
Literally at the foot of the pedestrian bridge at the Indraprastha metro station is a drain emerging from a little JJC with households running linearly along it. We didn’t walk far upstream, although the token greenery beyond the footbridge would make for a nice walk. It is these bits of existing paths and trails, sparse greenery already straddling the edges, and the promise of a lovely water landscape that makes ACWUS’ proposal for wetlands at multiple such sites one good investment idea for the annual 40 crore budget for green spaces by the Delhi Development Authority.
Tell me you don’t see potential for little green havens at these sites.
That big blue and white so reminiscent of the newly blue-and-whitewashed Calcutta…my bad, Kolkata…is the building of the World Health Organization. I don’t really think the coincidence is ironic, and that’s another thing you learn from these visits- that if 45.6% of Delhi’s population lives in an informal settlement, there’s a 50-50 chance you’ll have one in your backyard.
Not sure if it’s seasonal, but there’s a lot of little urchins trying to fly kites here. Most of their kites just swing past the faces and arms of unsuspecting pedestrians, but some successfully plant theirs as high up on the metro lines:
That little sliver of water flows in its own gully, where downstream it joins the main nallah and flows directly into the Yamuna.
Like most sites, locals do not know where all the water comes from, and what all it collects on the way downstream. The walk further downstream, across the main road, leads to a wastewater treatment facility. A power company draws out about 11 MLD (million litres per day) of the wastewater, treats it, and uses it in its boilers. About 500 metres further is an MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) facility that we’re told is purely used for pumping, storing, and slowly discharging the water when it rises to high levels in the monsoons. Since neither facility treats the water before it enters the Yamuna, we’re excited at the prospect of pitching this site for ACWUS.
One concern that’s always there, is changing the use of the wastewater for the informal settlements. Right now they’re content unloading loudly gurgling batches of wastewater and plastic through pipelines coming out of nowhere in that maze of houses, right into the open drain, falling over mounds of previously discarded trash. In a city wrought with solid waste management woes, it will have to be our imperative to arrange for an alternative for their trash or we can kiss our wetland goodbye!