The folklore goes that once Ahmed Shah, then the King of Gujarat was on a hunting trip. On a riverbed, one of his hounds chased a hare. But suddenly the hare jumped back on the hound and scared him off. Awe-inspired king credited the water of that river to bless that hare with such bravery. So he decided to build his new capital on the bank of that river, which he did. That new city was Ahmedabad, and the river was none else than Sabarmati.
Ahmedabad grew to become the fifth-largest city of India, and one of the most important financial centers also. From the beginning, this river has been the lifeline of the city. A poet Adil Mansuri called it “the city playing in the sand of the river.” Once upon a time, the city was located on the east side of the river, but in the second half of the last century, it was expanded on the west side too. Over the period of half a century, eight bridges were built to connect both sides. But with constant presence, and millions of people passing over the bridges the river was being taken for granted, and lost its charm. It was just too common. The city residents had started to forget the existence of the river. The river, which was ultimately the reason for the city’s existence.
The river became the outlet for the city’s sewage. The river bed became an illegal dumping site for the city’s solid waste. Slums grew on both sides where there were over 10,000 dwellings without basic infrastructures such as running water, electricity, and sanitation facilities. The living conditions were appalling for those slum dwellers and every type of crime was a regular occurrence. The city residents other than the slum dwellers did not have any access to the river.Not only that but the riverside buildings also used to keep their windows on the riverside closed, so that they would not have to face the dirty and filthy sight by looking at the slums.
But, in 1961 an American French architect Bernard Kohn proposed to the government an ambitious plan to develop both the sides of the river from Dharoi dam, to the river’s sea-facing near Khambhat totaling more than 500 km as an ecological valley. Considering the scale of the work the authorities were uncertain about approving it. So the proposal received neither negative nor a positive response.
In 1964 he again proposed integrated planning & development of the riverfront by reclaiming 30 hectares of land within the boundaries of the city. That received a positive response by the government in 1966. However the proposal was accepted by the government with some modifications to the original one, hence Kohn decided to detach himself from the project.
In 1976, the Riverfront Development Group proposed an incremental approach, however, nothing practical happened on the ground. In 1992, National River Conservation Plan proposed the construction of sewerage pumping stations to prevent the river being used as an outlet for the city’s waste, and to stop the river getting polluted, as the water pollution was a major cause for frequent epidemics such as cholera and jaundice in the city, and mostly the slum dwellers were among the sufferers. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation established the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corporation Ltd in May 1997 with financial encouragement from the central government for the riverfront development. A new proposal was submitted in 1998 by the city’s architectural firm Environmental Planning Collaborative led by renowned architect Mr. Bimal Patel.
The construction began in 2005. The slum-dwellers were relocated from there and provided new permanent homes with all necessary infrastructure facilities. By 2012 the 11.5 km long lower promenades on both the banks were completed and the public was allowed to visit some of its sections. Since then, however, reclamation and construction have been constantly undergoing, a major portion of the riverfront is fully open for the public and has made a permanent place in the city’s landscape.
The Sabarmati Riverfront is the latest addition of beauty combined with convenience to Ahmedabad. It has provided the city with many places for an evening out, a range of some exciting activities, vast open grounds for cultural events, It not only made its place in the city’s landscape, it actually changed it too. The neglected banks of the river Sabarmati are transformed because of it. We can look at it through these aspects of the development.
The initial proposal was to construct two riverfronts from Subhash bridge to Vasna barrage (10.4 km) by reclaiming a total of 400 acres of land from the riverbed. There was a gradual increment in the area of the land being reclaimed from the riverbed, as the authorities decided to extend the length of the riverfront. In 2003, the construction was implemented as a fast track project amidst many challenges.
The river’s width was uniformized to 263 meters from the previous average of 382 meters without letting its water carrying capacity affected. The width was reduced by land reclamation of more than 200 hectares of land to create vast spaces. The reclaimed land is being used for the public as well as private purposes. More than 85% for public infrastructure and facilities such as parks, exhibition grounds, parking, sports facilities, gardens, and 15% for commercial and residential projects. It’s now a preferred location for cultural events.
A two-level promenade was built. They have more than 11 km long walkways on both sides which makes the riverfront an ideal place for walking enthusiasts. The cyclists can enjoy a great ride here. 31 ghāt (broad stairways to the water of rivers, or lakes) were also constructed. Boat mooring facilities and jetties are constructed. There are also plans to use boats as a means of public transport. A pedestrian bridge is also under construction behind the VS hospital.
The riverfront adjacent to the famous Gandhi Ashram is made a part of the Ashram premises, and a new beautiful amphitheater has been able to come into existence because of that.
There are also plans for some sports complexes, and also to create a heritage plaza between Swami Vivekananda bridge and Nehru Bridge. The city’s history, heritage, and culture will be displayed here in open. The promenade has given the city two beautiful skylines and transformed the previous slum areas into upmarket real estate locations.
The new roads:
The city got two new highways on both sides of the banks and relieving pressure on the major roads which used to be rather congested before. The time to travel from Subhash Bridge in the north of the city to Sarkhej in the south was reduced to less than half because of that. These roads are only allowed to passenger vehicles, and not to the public service vehicles, rickshaws, and commercial vehicles.
The river-front project has given the city some event grounds larger than five hectares, which as well provides the authorities with a regular source of revenue. It can accommodate large events with 50,000 audiences. It is already a preferred destination to organize public events easing off the burden of traffic around the GMDC ground. The corporation has also taken care to provide 14 public sanitation facilities at these event grounds. A great number of events such as art & craft fairs, book fairs, garden shows, religious discourses, sports events such as the river-front marathon are taking place on these wonderful open spaces.
The annual kite festival is a popular event every time and attracts kite flying experts from all over the world. Recently an air show had attracted nearly a million people.
The river-front is planned in such a way that the commercial activities take place on the western embankment, but the beauty of gardens is allocated to the eastern one. The total area of the gardens to be eventually developed will be impressively over a quarter of the reclaimed land.
These gardens are among the best gardens in the city and increasing in popularity at a steady rate among the public. It is a new destination for an evening out.
The riverfront garden near Shahibaug is like a jewel in the crown. It also has its own sun-dial. It has fountains that are adorned with colorful choreographed lighting after the sunset and creates a beauty that just makes us lost for words to describe it.
The riverfront flower park near the VS hospital is spread over five hectares and is home to more than 330 flower species native to the local flora. There are also plans to create an urban forest near Vasna to serve as a bio-diversity park.
The riverfront serves a great place for recreational activities such as boating. There are several types of boats such as manual rowing boats, paddle boats, and cruise boats. The speed boats never fail to fill the riders with an exciting thrill.
We can take our cycle on the promenade and enjoy fun-filled rides. Also, there are different types of cycles available to rent on an hourly basis. Multi-rider bicycles help family members create a bond with an assured pleasure of joint effort riding. An experience we must not miss visiting the riverfront.
The river-front also offers rides on electric segways. It’s also a great fun activity. It’s not as slow as walking, and also not as fast as a cycle. We can stop wherever we want and easily navigate through pedestrian traffic. It can be an enchanting experience to chat along the river while slowly segwaying with our friends. Electric scooters are also a great way to enjoy the length of the embankment. Children love them the most and want to keep on repeating the smooth riding experience.
Some fun parks are also provided for the young visitors to the riverfront. They provide some exciting activities such as bouncy-castles and vertical swings along with many other traditional adventures like vertical climbing.
The riverfront can be a great destination for our evening meal out. It’s an experience in itself to have dinner on the river bank overlooking the city skyline reflected from the calm waters. Some reputed names such as Havmor, Shambu’s, and Amul eatery plus many more have opened their food stalls at some designated places. Yes, the typical street-side food stalls are not allowed on the river-front with some obvious valid reasons.
Parking and Public Transport Access:
There is no shortage. The large grounds and well planned curbside parking facilities can accommodate thousands of vehicles.
However, we’d like to encourage everybody to also use public transport to get here. From anywhere in or around Ahmedabad we have to simply mention the name Riverfront to the bus conductor, or a cab/rickshaw driver, and they can suggest the transport connections. A great number of bus stops are there in close proximity to it.
All the riverfront facilities are designed to be disabled-friendly. So any wheelchair user can access them without any difficulties.
The riverfront completely put a full-stop on the low lying areas of the city from flooding. The effluent discharge was diverted to the new sewerage pumping stations freeing the riverbed from being polluted. The stretch of the river for the length of the river-front was filled with water from the river Narmada through its main canal.
The waters in the river-front lake get mechanically cleaned for floating waste. A pontoon mounted water sweeper floats in the water continuously. The riverfront’s popularity is increasing in the world of birds too. After the river-front took shape, the water and man-made islands in the lake have become home to a number of species of migratory birds including beautiful flamingo. Their colonies add a great pink shade to the beauty of the river.
We are truly thankful to everybody from the early visionaries who visualized the river served by embankments, to those who finally brought that vision in existence in the form of this beautiful river-front. It has served a great many purposes. Not just adding an aspect of the beauty or a convenience, it has provided the citizens of Ahmedabad a subject to take pride as well. It provided the Indian designers and engineers with a much-needed experience in urban development not only in coherence with nature but adding value as well. We are tempted to call it a must-visit the place, but actually, it’s not a place. It’s over 11 km length of the river transformed into a new chapter in the city’s life.
The riverfront is the latest addition to the city’s preferred water-side destinations for an evening out. However, the city always had one beautiful water-body as a part of its landscape – the famous Kankaria lake. It’s a must-visit destination, with a great variety of experiences to offer to all age groups. It’s a part of the heritage the city has preserved for over a millennium.
We recommend you to learn about it through a short film.
Kankaria is not the only monument the city inherited from the forefathers. It is a rather rich city in terms of the monuments it has maintained for generations. The impressive number of such ancient monuments is over 50. The entire old city has been declared as a ‘heritage city’ by the United Nations. We also have a short film providing you with some interesting information about the heritage city.
We recommend you to watch the video to experience Kankaria Lake.
Let’s go there. A beautiful destination is waiting for us.
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