Ganges Water Machine – Terrestrial and Celestial Change in the Ganga Basin

Date 28-01-2016
Location Indian Institute of Human Settlements(IIHS), Bangalore, India
Event description
Of all the ways one might qualify the Ganga River Basin—rural, urban, suburban, landscape, drosscape, edge city, and megalopolis–none of these accurately defines such elaborately engineered spaces and infrastructures. Instead, through the construction of thousands of kilometres of canals and the sinking of millions of tubewells, the basin has been transformed into a giant water machine. From the foothills of the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, the Ganges Machine cuts across agricultural fields, cities, and hamlets, inscribing in its monumental re-organization of space and infrastructure a new way of life. Throughout this transformed river basin flowed the forces of tradition and innovation, dotted by diffuse urban projects (regional urban capitals), temporary tent cities (Magh and Kumbh Melas), miniature infrastructures (tubewells), and colossal public works projects (Ganges Canal). Its spiritual and religious significance inspired reverence in pilgrims; its archaeological and architectural monuments attracted painters in search of the picturesque; its seasonal ebb and flow of water perplexed farmers and engineers alike; and its fast paced urbanization vexed geographers, planners, and architects. In short, the physical and cultural complexity of this territory has challenged traditional terminology. Even though various infrastructures of the Ganges Machine affect millions in their daily lives, there is no map that legibly renders the terrestrial and celestial layers of this unexampled landscape. This discussion will focus on a decade long project to create an atlas—a dynamic atlas—of the Ganges Machine: a method of mapping that exposes the juxtaposing layers of infrastructure and adjoining built forms. The goal of this dynamic atlas is to not only map space, but also map how spaces change over time. At a time when the Government of India is beginning to invest a $1.5 billion loan from the World Bank to clean up the Ganges River, mapping the choreography of water and human settlement is more important than ever.


I am studying Urban planning from past few years. It has been part of my study, participation in competitions, and designing of European Best Engineering Competition cases. It has also become integral part of my ‘Global Manager for 21st century(Zero Cost MBA)’ project. I have explored different layers of Urban planning through courses, projects, and guest lectures. I participated in one such lecture, delivered by Anthony Acciavatti. It is about the mapping of river Ganga and cities around it. River Ganga has a place in the heart and soul of every Indian. The spiritual quotient is in parallel with the sprouting civilization around the river basin from centuries. More than half of the population of the world live in the larger Ganga basin. Government of India has recently launched Ganga rejuvenation mission to clean the river Ganga.

This was one of the very rare event, where I was stunned by the depth of the work done by presenter. He has spent 10 years in mapping boundaries of Ganges river in India. An incredible amount of time in mapping the river surface and changes along the river.

He designed his own methods to map river bed. He has taken more than 25,000 photos and made 15 sketch books to accurately map the changes happening in the Ganga basin.He has complied his work into the book highlighting the confluence of Monsoon, Agriculture, and Population density along the Ganga basin. In his lecture, he has covered the rise and decline of Canal based system along the Ganga basin. He has also highlighted the rise in tube wells in some areas near the basin in the recent years.

Enough of my summary now, I invite you to watch this live broadcast to get the depth of his work.


About the speaker
Anthony Acciavatti, an architect, cartographer, and historian, will be at IIHS for a Publics event on January 28th 6:30 – 7:30 PM. He is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University in the City of New York and is a principal of the design firm Somatic Collaborative. He has spent the last decade hiking, driving, and boating across India’s Ganga River Basin in order to map it and to understand the growing conflicts over water for drinking, agriculture, and industry. The results of this field and archival work are published in his recent book, Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River (2015) Along with the book, Ganges Water Machine is an international traveling exhibition. His work has been exhibited in Asia, Europe, as well as North and South America. Anthony will present parts of this work at IIHS.

His work can be read at his company website and at his LinkedIn profile.
(Event summary is based on my personal experiences)

More information:
Indian Institute of Human Settlements, Facebook page
Indian Institute of Human Settlements, website
Ganges Water Machine – Terrestrial and Celestial Change in the Ganga Basin, Facebook Page


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