The Gujarat elections are being seen as a test of the Gujarat Model of development established by the Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi. One of the achievements of the Gujarat Model is the development of the Sabarmati river banks. There is no doubt that large numbers of people of Ahmedabad are now enjoying walking on the Sabarmati banks.
What is Sabarmati waterfront?
The Government has made brick walls on both banks of Sabarmati and converted the Sabarmati into a channelized waterway. The land reclaimed on both sides of the river has been used for development of real estate, such as markets and apartment houses. This is certainly good for those urban people who live in these apartments and those who enjoy the waterfront. But, is it good for river itself and for the large numbers of poorer people?
Sabarmati riverfront has restricted the original flow of river
Cities like Ahmedabad, Allahabad and Varanasi are located at the banks of the rivers. Large number of pilgrims and citizen enjoys the natural flow of the river by sitting on its bank. But by constructing walls on the bank of the Sabarmati we have converted natural flow into a channelized flow. Just as natural air from the wind is enjoyable, but air from a blower is not enjoyable; similarly flow of the natural river is enjoyable while flow of a channelized river is not. Also, the public space and public access to the Sabarmati River has been reduced. Poor people cannot easily reach the river. Ahmedabad has lost the Sabarmati to the few people who live on her banks on newly developed property areas.
Basic Principle of River is Killed
The basic function of the river is to flow freely. It swings and dances. It flows between river banks which have grasses, trees which provide habitat for birds to perch and which carries number of fishes. The Government has removed all plants and grasses and perching grounds for birds. The Sabarmati today is like a dance performance made by a robot. Let us think of ourselves walking between two walls inside a tunnel and compare this with walking in a park. When we walk in a park, we can move anywhere, we see the birds, we see the grasses, we play, we enjoy. But when we walk in a tunnel we have to walk straight, we are only seeing walls on both sides; we have no other option other than moving straight. Similarly the Sabarmati is only looking at the walls. Her inner-being and her spirit are lost.
We need to introspect
There are two levels at which we can interact with the Sabarmati. The lower level is that of property development which caters to our bodily needs. The higher level is of enjoying the natural flow and the birds and fishes which caters to our spirit. We have to choose whether we see Sabarmati as a physical object to be used for property; or as a spiritual being having higher existence. This model is now being replicated across the country. Rivers like the Gomati at Lucknow have already been walled-in. We plead with the people of Ahmedabad to reject the concrete-based riverfront of Sabarmati and restore the singing and dancing river that was home to birds and fishes that she once was.