Washed out and in disrepair, work begins to restore the ghats along Yamuna

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The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has launched restoration work on what may be ghats from the period between 1857 and the 1940s on the banks of the Yamuna near the Kashmir Gate.

Older ghats from the Mughal period, such as Qudsia Ghat, built by Qudsia Begum, wife of Mughal Emperor Mohammad Shah, in the 18th century, may now lie beneath what is now the Ring Road, said Divay Gupta, Senior Director of Architectural Heritage. Division, INTACH. But the river may have changed course, and when the river moved, the ghats moved, he said.

The proposed plan

Those currently being restored probably date from the mid-19th century, Gupta added. “There were ghats there, which we discovered under the sand of the river in 2021. These will be repaired, restored or rebuilt. We are also doing a garden, which will be a reconstruction of what the garden would have looked like, along the river…based on what the old Qudsia garden from the Mughal period would have looked like,” Gupta said.

Today, the Qudsia Bagh stands across the river, with the road separating the garden and the ghats.

The Qudsia Ghat Restoration Project is part of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) 10-part project to “restore and rejuvenate” the Yamuna floodplains. The project, which involves footbridges, cycle paths and gardens along the 22km stretch of the river, has faced opposition in some places where makeshift homes and farmland are being cleared to make way for gardens, wetlands and paths.

Work on the ghat started about a month ago but has been difficult with fluctuating water levels in the river with the onset of the rains. Paths are laid out and a parking area is being created.

“The planting pattern will be in line with that of the Mughal period. Along the river there will be grasses, flowering plants and trees like champa and kachnar beyond the flood line,” Gupta said.

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There may have been around 12 to 13 ghats along the stretch, Gupta said. “In some areas they were swept away. Some are in poor condition. We will now do a consolidated stretch of about 1 km,” he added. The DDA is funding the project, which is expected to cost around Rs 19 crore for Qudsia Ghat. Completion of the project is expected to take approximately six months.

Permanent structures are not allowed to be built on floodplains, according to an order from the National Green Tribunal. Regarding the work on the ghats, Gupta said no concrete will be used and they are only being restored or reinforced using piling techniques.

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