Running alongside the newly-built concrete road along the Sabarmati Riverfront, the brick fort wall of Ahmedabad has not been able to match the pace or priority of the big-ticket Riverfront project. The 5.5-mile long and 600-year-old fort wall — that used to define the boundaries of Ahmedabad in the 15th century during the rule of Ahmed Shah — is crumbling at places, even as the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) is moving ahead with its plan to build the Riverfront along its side. Trees have grown out of it, breaching through its two-metre thick breadth, as cluttered homes that used the wall as a support, peep out over it. This 800-metre-long stretch of the wall behind Lal Darwaja, the old city centre, many bricks have given way. On other side of the wall are located the Home Guard Office, a Marathi locality called Vasant Chowk, a Marathi school and the Lal Darwaja swimming pool.
The wall has two doorways called Ganesh Bari and Ram Bari. Besides, there’s a nameless opening at the Nehru Bridge corner. The Ganesh Bari leads to Vasant Chowk after climbing 28 stone steps. The other two openings lead to Ellis Bridge and Sardar Garden.
The AMC, which is renovating the wall under the city heritage conservation project, has different allocations for different stretches. For the Cama Hotel to Shankar Bhuvan part, it has spent Rs 1.24 crore and from Rifle Club to Shankar Bhuvan Chhapra Rs 1.51 crore. Both these parts fall in Khanpur and Shahpur areas. Rs 1.2 crore is being spent on the final part – from Shankar Bhuvan Chhapra to Shahpur Ward Office.
But there is no plan to restore the Ellis Bridge Nehru Bridge part of the wall. Just a barren patch is lying on the Riverfront side which has a length of eleven kilometre on both sides, from Subhash Bridge to Vasna.
Deputy general manager of AMC heritage department P V K Nair said that at present the department was working on the portion near Shankar Bhuvan, Shahpur. About 10,000 slum-dwellers have been resettled in Vatva area. “Given the archaeological and historical importance of the area, the AMC could consider full restoration of the wall and appropriate authorities could consider action for the removal of other nuisances,” Nair said. I K Patel, Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Central Zone), said there was no plan to restore the Ellis Bridge-Nehru Bridge portion of the fort wall. “It does not figure in out in the current plans, but we are working on the Ellis Bridge-Phool Bazaar portion this year,” he said. Phool bazaar is a dedicated flower market on the north-eastern end of Sardar Bridge opposite the Saptarishi crematorium. It is here that flower merchants of Dhalgarwad were relocated.
Patel said, “This was because of financial and budgetary constraints. We hope to start work on this part in the next one or two years. As of now, we are attending to more urgent and pressing restoration of those portions of the wall which are in a worse condition,” he said.
No one lives on the riverside, so there is no question of adding any value to their homes as they are resettled in Vatva under EWS scheme. The restoration work elsewhere has taken its toll too. A couple of months ago, a labourer named Juned was buried alive under the debris of Khanpur Darwaja, which is undergoing restoration. The man was hired by a private contractor and the AMC Heritage Department was not held responsible for the mishap.