Gujarat floods: Submerged Sabarmati riverfront throws up snakes and many questions

This was not the first time that the riverfront got flooded. In the past too, the lower promenade of the riverfront got submerged thrice — in 2006, 2011 and 2015. In 2015, the release of 1.8 lakh cusecs of water from Dharoi dam had led to the flooding of the riverfront

Written by PREETI DAS | Published: July 31, 2017 4:29 pm
The submerged Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad. Javed Raja

It HAS been five days since the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad went under water following incessant rainfall in the city that led to swelling of the river. The 11.25 km-long riverfront was developed not only as an urban asset, but also to help control flood. But the release of around 1.28 lakh cusecs of water from Dharoi dam led to the flooding of the riverfront last week. This was not the first time that the riverfront got flooded. In the past too, the lower promenade of the riverfront got submerged thrice — in 2006, 2011 and 2015. In 2015, the release of 1.8 lakh cusecs of water from Dharoi dam had led to the flooding of the riverfront.

This time, as water level in the river rose between July 25 and 26, around 135 snakes made their way from the riverfront to the nearby areas, leading to a scare. Some snakes found their way into various factories in Behrampura. “The snake holes are near the water. So when the water is released from the dam and the river swells up, the snakes are forced to leave their holes for safer places. This will happen every time the riverfront gets flooded. Most of them are non-poisonous snakes, but that does not mean we need not to worry,” said wildlife conservationist Amit Rami.

On Saturday, the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corporation Ltd ( SRDCL) said that with water receding, the cleaning of the riverfront has begun. According to the corporation’s executive director, 60 men, JCBs and tractors have been deployed to ensure that the riverfront is cleared. “Work started from day one when we did not allow people to go into the promenade as it was dangerous. As water receded from the lower promenade, we engaged the forest department to clear the area of snakes. The structure is not damaged, so there is no major expenses involved. We aim at opening the riverfront in a week’s time,” Deputy Municipal Commissioner Rakesh Shankar said.

Proposed in 1960s by French architect Bernard Kohn, the construction for the riverfront began in 2005. Since 2012, it was gradually opened to public. “The biggest paradox of the riverfront is that one of its key objectives was to control flood. The idea was that the design would ensure that flood waters stayed away from the city. The flow in the current design is not a natural one,” said Navdeep Mathur of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad.

However, the architect of the riverfront, Bimal Patel, dismisses any such criticism. “The riverfront is designed to cope with flood. It has been designed in such a way that there is minimal damage to it. Only cleaning cost involved,” he said, adding that trees planted around the riverfront are sturdy. However, according to the SRDCL, 25 trees got uprooted at the riverfront during the flooding.

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