On Thursday 9th June, I am co-hosting a free workshop on ‘Reflecting on the River’ in Sheffield. I am delighted to welcome my colleagues Prof. Manvita Baradi and Dr Mercy Samuel from CEPT University in India. We will also have Prof. Mariana Correia and Dr David Viana from the Escola Superior Gallaecia in Portugal speaking to discuss cultural heritage and urban rivers.
We will present some of our findings from the work we’ve been doing in Ahmedabad where we explored different representations of the Sabarmati River which has been undergoing significant recent change.
We will continue some of the conversations we had in Ahmedabad about understandings of cultural and natural heritage at the Sheffield workshop. In Ahmedabad, we examined the Sabarmati River as cultural heritage as an asset which is valued as part of Ahmedabadi local knowledge, beliefs and traditions.
In India, the River Ganges is worshipped as a goddess where sins are washed away. But at the same time, human and industrial pollution flow into the Ganges – it is spiritual and sewer at the same time.
Other rivers are the setting for different aspects of life: from temples and religious rituals to farming, sand mining, clothes washing, swimming and children playing as well as the waste pollution.
The ways in which the cultural and the natural heritage come together in the Indian setting is complex and can be paradoxical. And as Indian cities urbanise, city authorities look to their rivers as assets to develop. In the case of Ahmedabad, this has led to losses of both cultural and natural heritage.
So, at the workshop in Sheffield we will reflect on how other – our ‘own’ rivers – have fared. What connections do we have with urban rivers? Do we/ did we ever swim and play in our cities’ rivers? Would we want to live near the river or not?
What effect does flooding have on how we value rivers? Kingfishers and salmon are returning to our cleaner rivers in the UK – great! So what? What does that mean to us? What do we share with others as part of a collective conscience and memory about urban rivers? What can urban rivers tell us about our past, present and future?