Traditional Wisdom
Architecture For Water | Snehanshu Mukherjee
LA 59
History is a testament to how water has forever been a vital natural resource, essential for the prosperity of any community and the efficiency of the construction of different structures for the management and supply of this resource. These water conservation structures from varied contexts have been a derivative of and influential to the form and the growth of settlements. The ingenious architectural solutions used to construct these structures rendered them highly efficient as well as a visual delight and, more often than not, they became foci for societal interaction.

Book- Spatial Ecology of Water
Author Meghal Arya
Published by AADI Centre, 2019
The book under review is Dr. Meghal Arya's latest contribution towards understanding traditional architecture, not just in history, but by bringing us research that has even more relevance today. The architecture of the past appears far more sophisticated in their harmonious resolution of function, context, and community than what is seen in the majority of built architecture today- both in India and across the world. Dr. Arya's book therefore is a valuable exploration and explanation as to how, through architecture, a community conserved and shared water - a vital life giving resource in the arid desert landscape of Rajasthan.

The system of conserving water that the communities of Rajasthan had evolved over hundreds of years is a remarkable example of architecture and engineering that has sustained the population in a hostile, water scarce geography. Dr. Arya explains lucidly through the book, how the architecture of water in Rajasthan is closely linked to a system of community management by the inhabitants of a settlement, a tradition that is very much a part of the culture of the place. Management of the water system involves the entire life cycle of its architecture - starting from its planning and design, through construction to continual maintenance to ensure that even in periods of drought water would be available to the inhabitants of a settlement. It is also apparent from the book that the responsibility of addressing water conservation lies collectively and singly at several levels of the overall community - from people of influence and positions of power like the king and his noblemen, the merchants to the common people. As Dr. Arya writes towards the end of the book, "Today as the world grapples with the environmental implications of rapid industrialization, large-scale mono-functional infrastructures, and homogenization of cultures, there is a revived interest in the 'local', and 'indigenous' processes and models of interaction with the environment that is both, sensitive and ecological."

"Rapid industrialization, large-scale mono-functional infrastructures" creates both scarcity and waste. Dr. Arya analyses in her book, that the provision of piped water during the British period in Jodhpur and the subsequent building of the Indira Gandhi Canal that brings water from the distant Bhakra Nangal Dam led to the disintegration of the traditional systems of conserving water which have resulted in the complete neglect of a valuable localised method of being self reliant in a vital natural resource and life line, that is water. Piped water has also taken away the community's responsibility of being self reliant, eventually changing the way people live today. The government's well intentioned plans to bring piped water supply to each and every household in the country could actually lead to further waste of this valuable resource as managing the resource could move away from the local community level to a centralised techno-infrastructure system.


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