Community Impact
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decade old ahmedabad’s dhal ni pol gets a new life

Photo of Kumar Manish
November 20, 2021

Community participation & participatory planning in heritage conservation is the key to preserve & conserve the living heritage. In a bid to remain conneted to youger generation of the country’s first UNESCO world heritage city of Ahmedabad gets overhauling transformation of its 100 year Dhal ni Pol in the walled city of Ahmedabad.

Public-Private-People Partnership

Taking this idea forward, Ahmedabad-based Mahila Housing Trust (MHT) demonstrated the way forward to make living heritage – the pols of Ahmedabad – more liveable by spearheading a heritage revitalisation project at Dhal ni Pol.

The public realm improvement project of Dhal ni Pol is part of a bigger initiative that MHT took up with an aim to improve the living conditions within this pol because it constitutes of low-income housing stock.

Before | After

The pilot project ‘Public Area Enhancement in the Heritage Precinct of ‘Dhal Ni Pol’ was conceptualized in 2015 together with experts from CEPT University and launched in 2016 for a stretch of 250 metres, for which MHT entered in an MOU with Amdavad Municipal Corporation (AMC). Subsequently, MHT partnered with the SELCO Foundation and continued receiving technical guidance from experts the planning and design experts.

As part of the project, MHT spearheaded several interventions such as conservation and restoration of bird feeders, a public well, heritage structures in the pol, a privately-owned rainwater harvesting tank and restoration and repainting of building facades, organising the parking spaces by demarcating areas, installing a new street light network and a dry hydrant-based fire-fighting system and a stormwater collection system with a percolation well. 

Through a community-centric and collaborative approach, MHT roped in public entities and private players to execute the project. The entire project was executed in partnership with the SELCO Foundation and with technical guidance from experts of CEPT University. Later, it also received support from the HT Parekh Foundation, Indian Oil Corporation, MS Khurana Engineering Limited. Public Sector Undertakings and private entities including BSNL, GTPL, Torrent Power and HDFC also supported the initiative for funding and execution.

Heritage Restoration

  • Restoration of bird feeders (Chabutra), ChakliniKhaambhi – a heritage structure in the Dhal ni Pol; a public well and a private rainwater harvesting tank
  • Building facades were repainted as well
Before & After

Before implementing the project, MHT carried out a socio-economic survey which revealed that 84 per cent of the interviewed households had an income of Rs 15,000 a month or less; whereas 78 per cent of families struggled to get basic amenities including water, sanitation and solid waste management.

 On challenges faced during the project conceptualization, Ms Lalita Krishnaswami, Trustee, MHT, said, “Lack of awareness of the heritage value, financial and technical resources were the primary factors contributing to the continued deterioration of the heritage structures and precincts in the pol, ”

“The public realm improvement project of Dhal ni Pol is part of a bigger initiative that MHT took up was aimed at improving living conditions within the pol by improving and re-organising public spaces, uplifting community spaces within the pol and making the neighbourhood more liveable. This will not only instil a sense of belonging but also pride among community members and residents at the pol of being caretakers of the centuries-old heritage of Ahmedabad,” she added.

Mapping the community & empowering women leaders

For this project, MHT organised a series of workshops to help map heritage structures and buildings, create awareness among community women leaders, training and engage them in conservation activities. Special workshops were conducted to demystify the AMC’s Heritage Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) policy. MHT also signed a memorandum of understanding with the AMC for the execution of this public area improvement work.

Enhancing public spaces

  • The clutter around the bird feeder was removed and plazas were created as open-activity spaces
  • The public area improvement works were carried out ensuring continuous vehicular access within the Pol
  • Installing street lights and accent lighting to enhance the heritage character of Pol and bird feeders
  • Metal casted signages, manhole covers and hanging pots were custom made to enhance the beauty of the streets

With a view to instiling a sense of belonging and pride among residents, MHT also trained women and children of the pol to conduct heritage walk every year through World Heritage Week. During these heritage walks, the residents themselves would take people around their neighbourhood, explain details about the different structures, the culture in the pol and tell tales of heritage.

Connecting people to heritage

On reviving the walled city of Ahmedabad & connecting people to their heritage, Ms Bijal Brahmbhatt, Director, MHT, said, “In the longer run, the idea behind this project is also to incentivize residents for their involvement in restoration and conservation of private structures with heritage value and help generate livelihood opportunities for the community women, by leveraging the heritage value of the pol,”

“Such a project can be taken as an example to further undertake similar initiatives at various pols of Ahmedabad to help revive heritage structures through public, private and community participation.With the learnings of this project, a set of guidelines can be created to not only help improve the precincts of this city but also many other cities, across India,” added she.

Utpal Padia, Officer on Special Duty & Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Retd.) AWHCT-AMC, said, “The areas in urban environments have fallen prey to degeneration in spite of thriving economic and cultural activities. Public realm revitalisation is a subsequent and integrated approach to improve the livability index in this context, ”

“This initiative of MHT for the revitalisation of Dhal ni pol is unique in many ways apart from the rejuvenation of the public realm, collaboration with Municipal Corporation for up-gradation of civic amenities and restoration by expert agencies. Moreover, aesthetic improvement of precincts, facades, re-painting etc. has also renewed visual interest,” added Padia.

The project aims to build confidence among the community and bring people closer to their local heritage to preserve it.

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