The Sabarmati Riverfront, a waterfront being developed along the banks of Sabarmati river, has been a hallmark of the Ahmedabad’s urban planning. The project is two-level promenade situated on both sides of the river where the lower level serves only pedestrians and cyclists while the upper level is capable of hosting numerous cultural and educational events, leisure activities, large public parks and plazas and a few areas for commercial and retail development.
Though the project occupies a place of pride on the city’s map, it has come under severe criticism from a student of Master of Urban Planning at CEPT University, who has called the project as a product of environmental racism. It is interesting to note that CEPT president and architect-planner Bimal Patel was then the consultant to Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and had helped with designing the riverfront.
“Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project, Ahmedabad coined the term environmental racism by aiming the urban poor community residing along the riverside….the concept of participatory planning really fell hostile in this. The urban poor were neither consulted in planning nor in the implementation approaches. They were not given the choice of housing, which resulted in broken communities and loss of social fabric,” she says in her report.
She felt that the state authorities took a hesitant and shifting approach for the urban poor as they pursued their primary agenda of beautifying and maximising gentrification of the riverfront. “Given this displacement and resettlement process and its outcomes, the Riverfront project cannot be considered to be inclusive and equitable.”
According to Nida in case of Ahmedabad, there has been a growing control by the state government – with a stronger focus on inviting private investment at the price of neglecting poor communities.