This report gives some hope for Madurai -min
A collaborative project of Thiagarajar College of Engineering’s Department of Architecture and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation has come up with some practical solutions on the issues of water and urbanism in Madurai in their report titled ‘Water Urbanism, Madurai, India.’ The report extensively deals with the issues of pollution and encroachment of the Vaigai River in Madurai.
Indiscriminate disposal of garbage and other wastes into Vaigai River has polluted the water. River sand mining has lowered the Vaigai riverbed. Due to illegal land reclamation the width of the river has shrunk in many areas. As a result of degeneration of the Vaigai, potable water is not available in many areas. Madurai has exhausted its shallow aquifers and the number and depth of borewells in the city are increasing every year, posing serious questions on water management.
“Architectural, historical, social, economic, and political ground realities have to be dealt with in holistic manner to achieve results that will be good for the city of Madurai, and for the region. I am also pleased that some innovative concepts and proposals have been produced and presented in this publication,” says Karumuttu T. Kannan, chairman, TCE, in his foreword. While writing her introduction to the report Kate Orff, Coordinator, observes that “An elegant, ancient water system that nourished rice fields and settlements has begun to collapse and needs to be rethought relative to expanding populations, public health, and ecological prerogatives.”
According to the report this Non-Perennial River requires a special dedicated development plan to further sustain its cultural and functional integrity. “The project’s vision is to revive and preserve the historical water system sustained by its interlinkage of channels and tanks, through defining boundaries based not on districts but on the natural chain system of water corridors, formed by the channel and tank connections”.
In order to revive the water system, a change in the perception of the city must occur. Madurai’s special significance and public health lifeline is its water system. Hence, the project proposes Special Zoning Districts (SZDs) along the deteriorating water channels. The city is looked at through the lens of its water network and zones are allocated based on which channel they are connected to. The SZDs lay out policies for implementation aimed at the revitalization of the water system. The policies are to be carried out in a four-phase action plan:
- Unclog which aims at the removal and treatment of solid waste and sewage from the channels.
- Capture which utilizes techniques for rain-catching and retention.
- Activate which aims at using the captured water to activate the channel edges by engaging the community.
- Preserve which aims at preserving and evolving the city’s water system for generations to come.