The water cart

With utmost excitement, we would like to announce that ’PAANI LARI’ or the water cart is a part of the ‘India Pavilion’ at LONDON DESIGN BIENNALE 2021. The exhibition is curated by Nisha Mathew Ghosh under the theme "Small Is Beautiful. A Billion Stories”.

The 1980s saw a major development of informal settlements along the peripheries of Ahmedabad: New Faisalnagar is one of them.

Located south of the walled city of old Ahmedabad and between the Pirana dumping ground -on the west- the textile and chemical industries -in the South- and Chandola Lake -on the East- New Faisalnagar is set in a somewhat marginal condition that has isolated the community inhabiting it for quite some time. Evidently, this is a consequence of a series of disenfranchising town planning and political events, which have led to the emergence of what we think is a clear example of structural violence.

Originally a farming field, New Faisalnagar -as part of what is called the ‘Bombay Hotel’ area- began to urbanize quite rapidly due to the Urban Land Ceiling Act of 1976. This policy indirectly incentivized an accelerated informal acquisition of farmland from diverse developers, who acquired these terrains at low values to subsequently divide them and re-sell them through a series of informal agreements to low-income families, without ensuring basic infrastructural amenities. These settlers of New Faisalnagar were majorly Muslim families, which were either directly displaced by the communal riots of 1969, 1980, 1990 and 2002, or indirectly affected by them; migrating in order to seek safety and housing affordability.

Up until very recently the AMC (Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation) did not recognize most of the propriety rights of the residents as official and hence did not provide basic amenities and infrastructure. This clearly encouraged the emergence of informal service providers who monopolized water, electricity and drainage systems: an illegal capitalization which systematically disadvantaged the community.

Currently, although water connection has been provided to most of the neighbourhood and the endowment of infrastructure has slowly become more apparent, the neighbourhood still faces a great number of challenges and difficulties, for which they have devised different ways to manufacture alternatives. In that manner, we are interested in such services that function as political networks, they define the overall interaction of agents within strict structures of power and unofficial governance. We seek for the understanding of these infrastructural systems as invisible boundaries of control and support: water supply and drainage, electricity tapping, aanganwadis/gyan shaalas, street vendors, religious institutes and so on.

For this, we have been collaborating with key residents of the neighbourhood which have helped us understand the complexity of the site, and manage possible interventions.

Now, this project in particular is a public water-filtering system.

Is the response to the primary necessity of drinkable water within the community of New Faisalnagar (Eastern Ahmedabad) and aimed to function as light infrastructure. Our strategy has been to collaborate with a local NGO (Centre for Development) in order to concede ownership to a group of citizens in the community who are willing to drive this device and cater to approximately 40 families per day. Additionally –and given that this is also a community space- we foresee different elements that encourage exchange and dialogue, not only by a generous cover and a deployable staircase to sit on but also a series of panels where different sets of information can be displayed (especially in relation to the use, treatment and health implications of water). Therefore, the ‘lari not only caters to a very pragmatic need of water consumption but in a parallel manner offers the possibility of implementing different forms of urban pedagogy.

*This project was facilitated by the Endowment Office of CEPT University and the generous donation of Dharam Patel (alum of the Faculty of Technology) and Sarjan Watertech.