Far beyond the urban density of Mumbai, somewhere in the western Himalayas, the River Ganga rises. Flowing south and east towards the Bay of Bengal, the river touches the lives of nearly half of India’s billion-plus population. Over the last 150 years, the ancient river has been transformed into one of the most hyper-engineered landscapes on earth – into India’s Iconic Water Machine. This transformation is more than just a cartographic concern, it merits great scrutiny.
From 18-27 August the Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai is organizing ‘The River Ganga: India’s Iconic Water Machine,’ an exhibition by Anthony Acciavatti at the Nehru Science Centre. Acciavatti embarked upon a decade-long systematic study and comprehensive mapping of the infrastructural transformation of Ganga, to understand how human intervention and engineering have shaped its water management and use. This exhibition is a curated excerpt of his extensive fieldwork – more than 25,000 photographs, 15 sketchbooks’ worth of drawings, 1,000 journal entries, and 350 original charts. It combines techniques from the arts and sciences to dynamically visualize this vast water machine.
The exhibition makes use of original photographs, models, videos, and new forms of drawing to explore the historical development and current state of Ganga. The first half of the exhibition begins with a visual essay on the descent of Ganga and the effects of the monsoons on cities and farms, and then explores the development of canals and stepwells as well as barrages and tubewells across the basin. The second half of the exhibition visualizes how and why these technologies have been used and abused to temper the monsoons and provide water for drinking and agriculture.
Exhibition Timings and Entry
The exhibition will remain open to the public from 19-27 August (including public holidays) between 10:00 am and 06:00 pm. Please note that while there is no admission fee for the exhibition, a nominal entry fee is charged by the Nehru Science Centre (approximately INR 50/adult).
Program of Events*
Throughout the duration of the exhibition, Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai is organizing lectures, discussions and screenings to further explore the issue of river management in India. Please use the links below if you would like to participate in any of the following:
The Agony of the Ganges | Sunday, 20 August, 3-5pm @ Nehru Science Centre
This award-winning documentary by director Sudhesh Unniraman raises critical questions on the ritual purity of Ganga and what has become its reality. It goes on to explore how climate change further complicates managing the future of this river and its source, the Gangotri glacier. The film screening will be followed by a discussion and Q&A with Unniraman and Anthony Acciavatti, moderated by Ravina Aggarwal. ► RSVP Here
Rivers of the Future: Evolving Approaches to Integrated Water Management| Tuesday, 22 August, 4-6pm @ Nehru Science Centre
Management of river systems in India has often taken a bird’s eye view, focusing on engineering of large dams and embankments. But, what about the countless independent bore wells and pumps that have resulted in massive overexploitation across India’s river basins? The panel discussion will feature Roshni Udyavar Yehuda, Head, Rachna Sansad Institute of Environmental Architecture; Madhav Chitale, Former Member, National Ganga River Basin Authority; and Acciavatti. The panelists will explore the emerging challenges of river management in India and propose new, integrated approaches to tackle them. The discussion will be moderated by Ravina Aggarwal, Director, Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai. ► RSVP Here
When River Becomes Machine | Wednesday, 23 August, 3-4pm
A webinar with Anthony Acciavatti and Vinod Tare, Professor of Environmental Engineering and Management and Founding Head of the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. The speakers will discuss each other’s work, drawing parallels between their diverse backgrounds and experiences, and interact with a wide-array of experts and students from across the country. The webinar will be livestreamed across platforms and is open to practitioners, academics and students from around the world. ► RSVP Here
About Anthony Acciavatti
Anthony Acciavatti is Adjunct Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University. A historian, cartographer, and architect, he is also a principal of Somatic Collaborative and a founding editor of Manifest: A Journal of American Architecture and Urbanism. Acciavatti spent years hiking, driving, and boating across the Ganga in order to map the river and to understand the growing conflicts over water for drinking, agriculture, and industry. Combining fieldwork with archival research, he authored Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River, which was awarded the 2016 John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize. His work has also been published in the New York Times, Cabinet, Architectural Design, and Topos among other publications.