University of Virginia helps New Delhi, India restore & reconnect to dead urban river

The University of Virginia has signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the New Delhi water authority to map out an expansive, multidisciplinary prescription to rehabilitate the pollution-choked Yamuna River.

The move marks a major advance for a three-year-long river improvement project, “Re-Centering Delhi”, which was born in UVA’s School of Architecture. UVA’s Yamuna River Project now includes students and faculty members from several disciplines across Grounds, including public health, business, history, environmental sciences and politics.

The Yamuna River, which flows through New Delhi, is what environmental experts call a “dead river,” its oxygen-carrying capacity suffocated by gallons and gallons of sewage being pumped into the waterway 24 hours a day.


Yamuna River garbage

Architecture Professor Iñaki Alday, the director of the new pan-University project, said the importance of the work cannot be overstated. “It is one of the most pressing urban dilemmas in the world,” he said in late August, 2016. “India is the second-biggest megalopolis in the world, the biggest capital of a democracy in the world, and the Yamuna is one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

When asked what he wanted to focus on during his professorship, Pankaj Vir Gupta—the Harry S. Shure Visiting Professor of Architecture at UVA, a 1993 graduate of the Architecture School, and principal of New Delhi-based Vir Mueller Architects—didn’t hesitate. To him, the neglect of the Yamuna River presented a unique opportunity to create a research focus and launching pad for a long-term relationship between UVA and India.

He found a perfect project partner in Iñaki Alday, Quesada Professor and chair of UVA’s Department of Architecture. Alday is from Barcelona, Spain, and saw firsthand how his hometown went through a similar exercise, reuniting its metropolis with the Mediterranean Sea ahead of hosting the 1992 Summer Olympic Games.

More than 60 students from architecture, landscape architecture, planning, environmental sciences and engineering have sifted through data and drawn plans to revitalize the Yamuna area since the project launched in 2013. Aaron Bridgers, who earned his master’s degree in architecture in May, went to India in July of 2015.

He visited an area called Pragati Maidan, a large exhibition center adjacent to the river that has been largely neglected and unused. “We were looking at the site to see how it might be a link to the Yamuna,” Bridgers said.

Photos via Adobe Stock Images.

Both of the following articles are by Jane Kelly, University of Virginia News Associate

See full UVA article by Jane Kelly.

See Re-Centering Delhi article by Jane Kelly.

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