Yamuna River Project: Urban Ecology in New Delhi, India

New Delhi, India and the phenomena of its rapid urbanization is the focus of the newly published Yamuna River Project: Urban Ecology in New Delhi. The city lies in the northern region of the country, situated on the sacred yet polluted Yamuna River. Home to more than 20 million people, New Delhi is a center for commerce and culture in India. While booming industrialization and urbanization in the area is a motivator for development and population growth, it also has caused communities to overstep the river’s ability to cleanse itself. In the last 25 years, the city of New Delhi has tripled its population. This rapid increase also comes with deficient infrastructure, apathetic attitudes towards the environment, a growing economic disparity between, and a lack of urban planning equipped to handle growing populations.

Photo © Randhir Singh

The pollution in the river has reached unprecedented levels. The air is highly contaminated, and the waters of the river have become overloaded with trash and contaminated pollutants. In effect, the river has been slowly converted into a series of canals flowing with fecal waters. This leads to overwhelming health crises that are merely manifestations of a growing environmental and climate change crisis in New Delhi.

The diagnosis for the Yamuna River may seem bleak. However, a group of professors, architects, and others have theorized the ways in which the urban development of New Delhi can be reformatted to use the Yamuna River to its full advantage, without destroying or depleting its resources and ecosystem.

In 2018, Actar Publishers released the Yamuna River Project: Urban Ecology in New Delhi Urban Ecology. Its release is backed by more than 5 years of investigation and methodology. The study combines the works of many anthropologists, architects, historians, as well as professionals in fields such as health, environment, and urban studies. This innovative new project relies on new investigative and empirical strategies that pilot a new way of attacking our environment’s most pervasive ecological issues.

The ultimate goal is to first address the pollution of the Yamuna River, in turn enveloping environmental crises in New Delhi as a whole. Eventually, the river will naturally restore its own ecosystem, and will grow stronger and healthier with time. Evidently, it takes a collective of our generation’s greatest thinkers to tackle an issue as pervasive as the pollution in Yamuna River.

Photo © Yamuna River Project

The project, directed by Iñaki Alday and Pankaj Vir Gupta, has the capability of changing more than 20 million lives for the better. The Yamuna River Project reaches a scope much larger than any other urban ecology project in New Delhi. Both Alday and Vir Gupta are professors that specialize in architecture and are invested in infrastructural issues affecting vulnerable communities. Supported by the University of Virginia and the Spanish Embassy in India, the project presents a multidisciplinary style of investigation that addresses not only the symptoms of the problem, but also the causes.

The Yamuna River Project: Urban Ecology in New Delhi book was presented various times in India and Spain, including presentations in both Barcelona and Madrid, co-hosted by each cities’ best architectural schools.  For those that have interest in seeing the book launch presentations, visit this link: https://youtu.be/23sSOTeC_p8

While the pollution of the Yamuna River may seem to be a solitary case of one river’s pollution, it’s issues are not unique to this case. The Yamuna River Project can be applied to other developing cities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, thus changing the lives of people around the world. The Yamuna River Project teaches us that while pollution and neglect of natural resources may seem insurmountable, architects and designers can take measurable steps to alleviate the stress on the environment. In an age where global warming, melting ice caps, and rising pollution plague our environment, the crisis of the Yamuna River is merely indicative of a larger issue rapidly appearing all over the world.


To learn more about the Yamuna River Project, click here:




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