Selected Entries 2018

Self Sustenance in water: Reviving the Neher System of Aurangabad

Justin Thomas
K.R.V.I.A | Mumbai

The Neher (Aqueduct) Syst­em of Aurangabad was established as a primary source of water for the city around 400 years ago by Malik Amber. A total of 14 Nehers were established and the water system supplied water to around 2 lakh people. After the advent of modernization, the nation turned to large scale projects like Dams, canals which led to the severe neglect of community based water systems like aqueducts, tanks and lakes. The ownership of water was transferred from communities to the Government. Water became a service which was supposed to be delivered to our doorsteps.

Aurangabad, after modernization has turned to the Jayakwadi Dam for their primary source of water. This has led to the severe disregard of the Neher System. Out of 14 Nehers, only 3 are functioning currently because of ad hoc urban planning.

Aurangabad had an association with water which is now lost. The project aims to bring back the lost association by taking one of the three currently functioning Nehers and make it centre of public space for the city. The project was conceptualized to revive this system and make it a part of everyday life. For this, the Neher-E-Ambari was chosen as a site on which a masterplan envisioning a green belt was created allowing for social spaces to be created and the water table to go up by water retention ponds and the green along the system which was impossible earlier due to concretization of areas. The water works department, one of the programs along the system, uses locally available materials like black basalt stone and concrete with terracotta tubes along the façade forming the skin of the building to collect the water are used. The architecture of water is strongly brought out in terms of harvesting water through roof and open gargoyles, spouts and water tanks on eye levels. The water body cutting through the institution brought out of the Neher through the aqueduct, acts as a water museum to reveal the once hidden waters flowing through the underbelly of the city to the people and supplied to the communities by a common OHT tank under the supervision of the institutions. The institutes become nodal custodians for supply of water along the system. The water can also be stored in case of maintenance work on the Neher system.

Aurangabad is in line for the smart city initiative taken part in India. But these systems are never considered into the planning aspect of the Smart City program. Reinier De Graaf of OMA says “We think sustainability can be created through new devices, digital devices, new technologies … but a lot of sustainability is actually imbedded in tradition, is imbedded in a discipline of urbanism and architecture and building that is much older than this new technology. It has an inherent intelligence which is entirely overlooked in our fascination with the newest and the latest thing. We forget a whole body of knowledge that is much older and I wonder how smart that is. I think in that sense, the ‘smart city’ is not smart, not smart at all”.