wastelandtwinning

 

Cartography of Sukrewar Ghat
As a part of the project Wastelandtwinning (www.wasteland-twinning.net) Periferry is exploring a wasteland at the bank of river Brahmaputra in Guwahati. Our attempt is to re-construct the space by mapping it conceptually.
Land Description
The area surrounding Periferry, that is the Sukreswar ghat is a wasteland. Its existence depends on the wanning and waxing of the river Brahmaputra. Six months of the year it is gulped down by the river and for the rest of the year it works as a public space. Accessible to all, it’s used for various purposes- as a riverport, dhobi ghat, dumping ground, bathing area, pinic spot and a space for several other micro-social activities, from strolling, playing, worshiping to asthi visarjan- last rites where the hindus immerse the ashes of the dead person to the flowing river. Like Foucault’s heterotopia this wasteland reflects and subverts all other city-spaces related to it.
The Brahmaputra is the border between the North and South banks. North Guwahati being rural and South Guwahati being urban. Though both the banks can be tagged as wastelands but our field of enquiry is the South bank which is conjoined to the expanding city of Guwahati.

Land nick names, Neologisms and slang terms:
Ghat, river front, pothar, sor.

Explorers
Periferry ( Sonal Jain, Mriganka Madhukaillya and Dibasri Mazumdar)

Land Topography
Size of the Land in sqm (approx.)
3 kms approximately

Surfaces

– Sand
– Mud
– Sediments of the river
– Shrubs
– Grass in patches.
– Big trees on the southern bank

Features
– Size of the land changes seasonally according to the flow of water in the river.
– Noise from the nearby Mahatma Gandhi Road.
– Dhobi ghat- Clothes left for drying on the ropes tied on bamboo poles.
– Disused ferries.
– Temporary make-shift bamboo bridges for the passage of people from the ferries to land.
– Fishing nets tied to bamboo structures.
– Man made paths
– View of the northern bank of the river Brahmaputra.
– Remnants of clay idols of Hindu deities immersed in the river after worshiping, surface up during dry months.
– Flowers used for worshiping strewn here and there.
– Dumped materials- plastic bags, crumbled papers, bottles etc
– Stray animals- dogs and cats can be seen.
– Carcass of cows, birds and other animals.
– City drains going through that area
– Brahmaputra is joined by its tributary, Bharalu. Waste carried by the Bharalu also goes into Brahmaputra through this area.
– Shanties can be seen on some areas of the wasteland.
– Wharfs where smaller ships are docked and moored to load and unload cargo or passengers.

Land status and definition
Basic

Vacant

Legal Status
Government land. The legal status of the area is ambiguous though. Some portion of it is used by Assam State Tourism Department , some of it by Inland Water Transport Department and Public Works Department. Parks and restaurants are being set up in the area, which have semi-private ownership.
Current Land Owner
State Government of Assam
Current Land Owner – Additional Info
In India, a piece of land which is not owned by any private party is considered to be under the legislation of the government. The government has the right to make construction on the land or make whatever use of it.
Known intended future use by the land owner(s)
It is observed that the government is planning to develop the river front by setting up parks and introducing luxury cruises , which have semi-private ownership.

Historical (basic)
From the medieval times the river bank has functioned as a river port. It has also been used for fishing purposes. In colonial times the Britishers developed it as a major port for the transportation of people and goods through the river by steamers.
The banks of Brahmaputra entangles itself with history, myths, lore, memory and psychological-spaces of natives of the valley. Many old Assamese texts, such as Lakshminath Bezbaruah’s play “Joymoti” refers to the people living at the sand banks as ‘Soria’. These people were migrants from western borders of Assam and employed themselves in various odd jobs in Assam. In some texts they are referred as beggars and spies, their identity called into question. Even at present, immigration of people from Bangladesh to Assam is still continuing. They still settle in the river bed of Brahmaputra and we can even notice shanties in the south bank Guwahati . Occupying a liminal space, which is there but not there. Inherent paradox of the space reflects in their nebulous identity. Who are the Bangladeshis of Assam? How to identify them? Answers to these question takes one to the never ending labyrinthine spaces of politics, economics, history and geography.
In the present context, the existence of the river itself can be called into question. Already there are unconfirmed reports of China building a large dam to divert the waters of the river to its drought ridden areas. This can have serious consequences for the people living downstream as it may alter the annual flood cycle of the river.

Land Access
Accessibility

Accessible

Access – Free Description
The land is accessible to the general public from some point, as semi-private parks have restricted the entry to the area without the payment of entry fee.It can be accessed by land through man made paths by the side of Mahatma Gandhi Road and by water through the ferries coming from the north banks of Guwahati. Restaurants such as Jolporee, South Coast, bars and night clubs such as Kamakazi and Alfresco river cruise have restricted the free entry to the area from certain points.

Borders
It is an open space with the river bank on its southern side and M G Road on its northern side. The area does not have a well defined border. Though different government departments and semi-private parties are using it for various purposes but they have not well defined the areas of their operations.

Land Users
Land is occupied by

– Staffs of Inland Water Transport Department, living in the ferries docked there.
– Homeless people.
– Beggars from the nearby Sukreswar temple frequent the area. Presently some local Non Governmental Organisation are working for the rehabilitation of these people.
– General public.
– Vendors selling tea, newspapers, film posters etc. Also flower vendors have started to sell flowers by making small shops in the area near the bank. Earlier most of them used to sell their things on the other side of the MG Road.
– Dhobies or laundry service providers, who do the laundry in the area.
– People selling goods in temporary, make shift markets.
– Fishermen with small wooden boats
– Used by boatmen. Some are government employes and the rest are boatmen of private country made ferries or bhotbhoti, which run across the river to transport people and good. The bhotbhoties are small ferries with their hulls made of wood, roofs made with corrugated sheets and they are driven by a small motor engine.
– Ragamuffins.
Activities – Free Description
– Functions as a dhobi ghat, for washing clothes by the laundry service providers.
– A river port for transportation of people and goods across the river.
– Used for religious purposes such as Chhaath Puja and Durga Puja.
– Used as a bathing area.
– Fishing
– Playing cricket.
– Strolling.
– dating
– A place for hanging out.
– Solid and sanitary waste from the city drainage system goes into the river through this area.
– Consignments of bamboo, vegetables, sugarcane and other goods are unloaded in the port.
– Temporary storage of goods.
– Fish market.
– Though pay and use toilets are being introduced in the area but many men pee on the open area of the river bank.
– Unorganised activities such as gambling, playing cards etc.

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