Reflecting on the river: rapid urbanisation and representations of Indian cultural heritage.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Landscape Architecture

Abstract

Many cities have developed on and around rivers as they are important elements, e.g. for transport, trade and fishing. Rivers also play a significant part in people's everyday lives, underpinned by their cultural practices, for example traditions and rituals such as funeral rites in India. People perceive, represent and use rivers in different ways which may or may not correspond with the way in which city-level decision-makers (e.g. designers, planners and managers) tell the 'story' of the river as part of its city identity. There are multiple perspectives and narratives of rivers which may differ over time as cities become increasingly urbanised. However we do not fully understand how rapid urbanisation of cities around the world is changing the cultural connections that people have with the river. This project aims to take the first step to address this gap in knowledge to deepen understanding of the cultural role of the river for residents in urbanizing India. Working in collaboration, the UK and Indian investigators have developed the following project objectives:

- To explore the different perspectives and 'stories' that people have of changing urban rivers over time;
- To explore and record how rivers have been used in the past and is used today;
- To bring together practitioners, academics and policymakers from different sectors to examine rivers and their cultural meanings (e.g. as a setting for cultural practices) in rapidly urbanizing settings;
- To develop data collection and analysis methods to capture the multiple perspectives and 'stories' of/about urban rivers as changing heritage landscapes.

Ahmedabad has been selected by the collaborative research team as a city for closer examination. It is undergoing intense urbanisation and described as one of the India's megacities. For this examination, the project will involve a review of (local) writing, painting, poetry, mythology, plays and archival materials about 'meanings of the river' in urbanising India. This will be followed by interviews with academics and professional practitioners who are responsible for teaching, researching and interpreting cultural heritage in the city. This will begin to uncover the multiple 'stories' around the river for further examination later on. The research team will hold two workshops for practitioners, academics and user group representatives to share their practices, interpretations, experiences and memories of the river to help piece together a more holistic view of the river as urban cultural heritage. The workshops will involve artists who will produce drawings/visualisations and a theatre group who will interpret the changing river, based on the perspectives of the different workshop participants. Together, these findings will form the basis of a high-profile dissemination conference in Ahmedabad aimed at academics, professionals and invited speakers. There will also be a second conference in Sheffield to disseminate findings and bring European and Indian delegates together. The conferences will provide critical debate on 1) how the river has changed as cultural heritage over time, and 2) how valid and relevant is the research methodology. The conferences will be followed by a formalisation of the research network members who will continue to collaborate on future research projects.

This cross-sector research network will be steered by an Advisory Group made up of academic and non-academic Indian project partners, who will help build up the research network and bring together stakeholders from public and private sectors as well as charities and community groups. This will support the team in their efforts to develop innovative and useful ways of collecting and analyzing data and bring about knowledge sharing, now and in the future, between academics and non-academics.

Planned Impact

We will deepen understanding of the cultural role of the river in urbanizing India by providing a forum for discussions from multiple perspectives, to uncover meanings of the river and associated cultural practices. Alongside the project partners, the project's beneficiaries are local (within Ahmedabad), national (within India) and international (UK, Europe and beyond).
Public Sector: This project has relevance for a range of priorities facing Municipal Authorities in India and Local Authorities elsewhere, such as access, inclusion around urban rivers and, in India, religious connection, while dealing with issues of water quality, pollution and climate-change related outcomes. This project brings the public sector together with other sectors to discuss relevant agendas around culture, heritage, management and ownership of the river and how they influence perceptions of meaning, sense of identity, social inclusion and cultural practices. This may help inform the interpretation of the river by city-level decision-makers when considering 'city as destination'.
Third sector/NGOs: The project will bring together representatives of communities, users and the heritage itself to reflect the diversity of those who influence, and in turn are influenced by, the river. Local beneficiaries will be invited to participate in the workshops and dissemination event such as the Gujari Bazaar Association who organize the weekly market along the river and the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (who manage the Gandhi Ashram). National beneficiaries including the Vastu Shilpa Foundation (research NGO in environmental and habitat design) and the Conservation and Research of Urban Traditional Architecture (CRUTA) Foundation will also be invited. The research network will also connect with international river charities such as International Rivers and River Network.
Professional bodies and private sector: The work and expertise of many professional groups directly impacts on the quality of the river as designed landscape, public realm and cultural heritage setting, particularly Landscape Architects (Indian Society of Landscape Architects (ISOLA) and the International Federation of Landscape Architects. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) will be an invaluable partner in this project for growing the network, given their focus on conserving the unprotected heritage in India, and the intertwining of tangible landscape heritage and intangible rituals and practices, which involves a multidisciplinary range of professionals.
Community groups: The project will target local organisations to participate in the workshops and dissemination event, including the Mahila Housing SEWA Trust, some of whose members originally lived in slum settlements on the riverbed. It is envisaged that there will be local interest in this project, given our supposition that there are hidden voices and unheard narratives around the river. In this way, and alongside the artists and theatre group to be formally engaged in the project, we will partner with local cultural groups (e.g. Saamarthya Institute of Dance, part of project partner The Saamarthya Foundation, which runs art and cultural programmes for children in slum settlements). We will also target local religious representatives from Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim temples and mosques and beyond to capture current and past religious rituals and practices occurring in or around the river.
Artists, dance and theatre groups: specifically those interested in cultural rituals and practices in urban settings. This project will conceptualise the river as a cultural setting, and a setting for cultural practices, to be interpreted by the groups engaged in the research, and the wider (local, national and international) artistic community beyond. We will focus on building capacity for future collaboration between academic researchers and these groups as part of the methodological development.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This is a research network project with a primary aim of bringing together academics and professionals working in the wide field of cultural heritage within the urban river context. We were able to collect data about the development of the Sabarmati River, conducting a number of interviews with different stakeholders. The Sabarmati river project is complex with negatively affected parties including slum and other riparian dwellers, the Ravivari market and some riparian temples - these parties have all lost access to some livelihood opportunities or to the river itself which was an important part of their everyday lives (one temple in particular). Positively affected people are primarily users who now have access to long stretches of open space which were inaccessible before and - perhaps inevitably - the real estate market which has yet to realise the financial gains of developing along the river. However, it has yet to be determined if the trajectory of this river development project will echo what has happened in the west in terms of very high property prices.
Exploitation Route At least one peer-reviewed journal article is in preparation for planned submission within the next 12 months.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.place-keeping.org
 
Description Collaboration entitled UN-FASTEN developed for the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC 
Organisation Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT University)
Department Faculty of Management
PI Contribution I led this collaboration with Dr Mercy Samuel and Prof. Manvita Baradi at the Faculty of Management at CEPT, Hellen Hornby at the River Stewardship Company, Prof. Alister Scott at University of Northumbria and Dr. Steve Connelly at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at University of Sheffield. This project aimed to explore how, why and to what extent (if any) good practice principles are implemented into sustainable planning interventions.
Collaborator Contribution We developed and submitted an application to the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC for approx. €487,483
Impact The application to Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC was the output from this collaboration. However, we found out that it was not successful and therefore not funded. We are looking to continue our collaboration and target another funding stream.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration entitled UN-FASTEN developed for the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC 
Organisation Humboldt University of Berlin
Department Institute of Physics
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I led this collaboration with Dr Mercy Samuel and Prof. Manvita Baradi at the Faculty of Management at CEPT, Hellen Hornby at the River Stewardship Company, Prof. Alister Scott at University of Northumbria and Dr. Steve Connelly at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at University of Sheffield. This project aimed to explore how, why and to what extent (if any) good practice principles are implemented into sustainable planning interventions.
Collaborator Contribution We developed and submitted an application to the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC for approx. €487,483
Impact The application to Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC was the output from this collaboration. However, we found out that it was not successful and therefore not funded. We are looking to continue our collaboration and target another funding stream.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration entitled UN-FASTEN developed for the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC 
Organisation Northumbria University
Department Department of Geography
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I led this collaboration with Dr Mercy Samuel and Prof. Manvita Baradi at the Faculty of Management at CEPT, Hellen Hornby at the River Stewardship Company, Prof. Alister Scott at University of Northumbria and Dr. Steve Connelly at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at University of Sheffield. This project aimed to explore how, why and to what extent (if any) good practice principles are implemented into sustainable planning interventions.
Collaborator Contribution We developed and submitted an application to the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC for approx. €487,483
Impact The application to Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC was the output from this collaboration. However, we found out that it was not successful and therefore not funded. We are looking to continue our collaboration and target another funding stream.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration entitled UN-FASTEN developed for the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC 
Organisation River Stewardship Company
PI Contribution I led this collaboration with Dr Mercy Samuel and Prof. Manvita Baradi at the Faculty of Management at CEPT, Hellen Hornby at the River Stewardship Company, Prof. Alister Scott at University of Northumbria and Dr. Steve Connelly at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at University of Sheffield. This project aimed to explore how, why and to what extent (if any) good practice principles are implemented into sustainable planning interventions.
Collaborator Contribution We developed and submitted an application to the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC for approx. €487,483
Impact The application to Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC was the output from this collaboration. However, we found out that it was not successful and therefore not funded. We are looking to continue our collaboration and target another funding stream.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration entitled UN-FASTEN developed for the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Department Department of Urban Studies and Planning
PI Contribution I led this collaboration with Dr Mercy Samuel and Prof. Manvita Baradi at the Faculty of Management at CEPT, Hellen Hornby at the River Stewardship Company, Prof. Alister Scott at University of Northumbria and Dr. Steve Connelly at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at University of Sheffield. This project aimed to explore how, why and to what extent (if any) good practice principles are implemented into sustainable planning interventions.
Collaborator Contribution We developed and submitted an application to the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC for approx. €487,483
Impact The application to Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call funded by the Belmont Forum, NORFACE and the ISSC was the output from this collaboration. However, we found out that it was not successful and therefore not funded. We are looking to continue our collaboration and target another funding stream.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration for a new research project application to UKIERI: Future River Scenarios: measuring the long-term resilience of river management approaches along the Narmada, India. 
Organisation Centre For Environment, Fisheries And Aquaculture Science
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I led this collaboration with colleagues at the Faculty of Management in this jointly-developed application for a grant to the UKIERI call administered by University Grants Commission, India. This collaboration was in the area of Resilience; River management; Green and blue infrastructure. This also involved members of the different Faculties in CEPT: Management (whom we have worked with before), Architecture, Design, Technology and Planning. We also developed this application with other non-academic collaborators including - in the UK - Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Oxfordshire, UK; ME Landscape Studio, London, UK, River Stewardship Company, Sheffield, UK and ME Landscape Studio, London, UK. Our collaborators in India included NMP Design, Delhi; Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT), Ahmedabad, India; Urban Management Center, Ahmedabad, India; Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH); School of Planning and Architecture: Bhopal; Indian Institute of Technology: Gandhinagar.
Collaborator Contribution We developed and submitted an application to UKIERI for approx. £547,507.
Impact The application to UGC// UKIERI programme was the output from this collaboration. We found out that it was not successful and therefore not funded - feedback stated that "It is an exciting project concept with large number of participants and good potential for collaboration -[but] The benefits and applications for the UK do not come out clearly. "
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with CEPT Faculty of Management, Sheffield Department of Landscape and Sheffield Management School for research bid application for Newton ESRC-ICSSR Urban Transformations in India 2017 
Organisation Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT University)
Country India 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I led this collaboration with colleagues at the Faculty of Management at CEPT and the School of Management at the University of Sheffield in this jointly-developed application for a grant to the Newton ESRC-ICSSR Urban Transformations in India 2017. This collaboration aimed to explore where improvements in sustainability and efficiency could be made in waste management system and improve the livelihood of informal workers. We developed this application with non-academic collaborators including the Urban Management Center, Ahmedabad, India.
Collaborator Contribution We developed and submitted an application to ESRC for approx. £364,518.72 and to ICSSR for 2499795 INR.
Impact The application to the ESRC/ ICSSR funding stream was the output from this collaboration. We found out very recently that this was not successful and therefore not funded - feedback stated that "The panel considered this to be an important project on formal and informal domestic waste picking practices in four Indian cities of different size and character. The panel agreed that the project is tightly conceptualised and very persuasive. They also praised the high level of potential policy contribution. The panel noted the research design and methods were well thought out and discussed thoroughly in the proposal."
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with CEPT Faculty of Management, Sheffield Department of Landscape and Sheffield Management School for research bid application for Newton ESRC-ICSSR Urban Transformations in India 2017 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Department School of Management
PI Contribution I led this collaboration with colleagues at the Faculty of Management at CEPT and the School of Management at the University of Sheffield in this jointly-developed application for a grant to the Newton ESRC-ICSSR Urban Transformations in India 2017. This collaboration aimed to explore where improvements in sustainability and efficiency could be made in waste management system and improve the livelihood of informal workers. We developed this application with non-academic collaborators including the Urban Management Center, Ahmedabad, India.
Collaborator Contribution We developed and submitted an application to ESRC for approx. £364,518.72 and to ICSSR for 2499795 INR.
Impact The application to the ESRC/ ICSSR funding stream was the output from this collaboration. We found out very recently that this was not successful and therefore not funded - feedback stated that "The panel considered this to be an important project on formal and informal domestic waste picking practices in four Indian cities of different size and character. The panel agreed that the project is tightly conceptualised and very persuasive. They also praised the high level of potential policy contribution. The panel noted the research design and methods were well thought out and discussed thoroughly in the proposal."
Start Year 2016
 
Description Facilitation of the Sheffield Waterways heritage group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact I facilitated a meeting of all those stakeholders with an active interest in Sheffield's waterways and heritage. This is against the backdrop of Sheffield City Council's proposals for flood protection, which a number of stakeholders felt did not give adequate consideration of the city's valuable heritage assets along its rivers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invitation to AHRC-ICHR run workshop in Delhi to shape their funding call for follow-on funding 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact A 2-day workshop which brought together academics and non-academics to help shape AHRC-ICHR's calls for their follow-on funding.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invitation to present at the AHRC Mobilising Voices international summit, June 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact With collaborators Dr Mercy Samuel and Prof. Manvita Baradi from CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India, I presented our Reflecting on the River project. Over 60 people attended the session from different sectors. It sparked lots of questions and discussion afterwards. We were asked by AHRC to present at a subsequent event, which I did (see entry for Heritage and Global Challenges Workshop, October 2017).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invitation to present project findings at the Heritage and Global Challenges Workshop organised by AHRC at the British Academy, London, October 2017. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Over 100 people attended this workshop - there was a lot of discussion and interest in the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://heritage-research.org/
 
Description Non-academic Networking Round Table. 30th November 2016, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This Round Table meeting was on the theme of 'Making Cities and Human Settlements Inclusive, Safe, Resilient and Sustainable' (UN Sustainable Development Goal 11). Working towards a collaborative, co-produced research agenda. This involved collaborative discussions between academics and non-academics, focused on the following questions:
• What are the key issues for NGOs involved in [# area of interest#] in urbanising Indian cities?
• How are these issues/ challenges framed in cities which are at the same time historic and rapidly developing?
• What are the main [# area of interest#] interventions and their limitations?
• What is the feasibility and acceptability of these [# area of interest#] interventions?
• What is needed to overcome the limitations? What part does research play?
• What is the evidence that NGOs need in everyday practice?
• What are the main research questions that NGOs would ask?
• Next steps - working in collaboration?

Representatives from 6 NGOs based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat came together to discuss future research strands in response to funding when opportunities arise. An excellent networking event with strong connections made with new collaborators and networks strengthened with existing collaborators.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016