Category Archives: Construction

Water aesthetics: Life around water structures in Medieval India

Water as a utilitarian and ritualistic element has been important throughout the history of the Indian subcontinent. Rgveda has associated water with the idea of creation and so has the Islamic doctrine.  This association of water with the divine attribute of creation in almost all the pre-modern civilizations seems to have been the result of the life sustaining quality of this natural element.  Apart from acquiring it from natural sources, civilizations have also succeeded in controlling, diverting and manipulating water. The architecture used in this process is called water architecture and in Indian context this architecture manifested in many building types including wells, step-wells (baolis), well houses, ponds, reservoirs, pools, tanks etc.

These water structures were not only spaces of utilitarian and economic activity but they also emerged as upholders of many socio-cultural aspects of public life like pleasure and entertainment. The architecture and the presence of the element of water made these structures visually appealing which must have been an important factor in the arrangements of pleasantries around them.

A Sultanate period baoli known as Ghandak ki Baoli in Mehrauli.

A Sultanate period baoli known as Ghandak ki Baoli in Mehrauli.

 

Social gatherings and parties:

There is a considerable information about the social gatherings that were organized around water architecture.  Ibn Batuta writing in the 14th century AD talks about Tank of Sultan Iltutmish at Delhi. He tells that it was the place on the western side of which were two built platforms. These platforms had stairs which led to the water of the tank and beside the platforms were domes containing seats for the people to sit and enjoy the view. These domes were the haven of pleasure and amusement seekers reports Ibn Batuta. Further in the centre of this tank was a great pavilion built of squared stones which was two storeys high. This structure could only be reached by boats when the tank was filled with water but at other times it could be walked to and inside the domed structure there used to live world renowned fakirs. This reference comments upon the nature of social gathering at such water structures and their public spirit. The other major tank at Delhi is also mentioned by Ibn Batuta, regarding which he writes that this Hauz-khas was larger than the Hauz of Iltutmish and on its sides were about forty domes and around it the musicians lived and performed and such was the significance of the presence of musicians there that the place had come to be known as Tarababad (House of musicians). This was a site of organization of a large market as well which was described to be one of the largest in the world. The space around the hauz was also marked by a number of mosques including the one congregational mosque and many smaller ones. In these mosques female and male reciters used to perform the tarawih prayers during the month of Ramazan and there were a considerable number of women who attended the prayers. These references hint upon the essence of public pleasantries as experienced in the vicinity of the visually relieving and physically soothing structure of a tank.

Hauz Khas, originally Hauz-i-Alai. (Source: Wikepedia)

Hauz Khas, originally Hauz-i-Alai. (Source: Wikepedia)

The pleasurable element associate with these tanks at Delhi seems to have survived till much later time. There is mention of this tank as a space for parties and gatherings during the Lodi period (16th century AD). A source reports that one of the nobles under Sultan Sikandar Lodi, Miyan Zabar-ud-Din used to spend 8 months of his year in Delhi. About his stay at Delhi it is said, “… he used to go on every Monday to the Hauz-i-Shamsi (Shamsi tank) along with his friends, among whom were included the scholars, Mashaikh, Sufis (Saints), poets, scientists, Qawals (singers) and musicians and held a party on its bank. He maintained a large kitchen from where victuals were freely distributed.” This reference acts as an important marker of the persistence of the nature of the pleasantries as was experienced around the Hauz of Delhi from Tughlaq to Lodi period. Further the presence of Jahaz Mahal on the bank of the Hauz-i-Shamsi with its clearly Lodi architectural features also asserts the continued occupation of the site and most probably it was this structure or a similar structure that must have been used by Miyan-Zabar-ud-Din for his extravagant parties.

A glimpse of public pleasantries along the water bodies can be had from a reference to a later Mughal Shahjahanabad. It is informed that the bank of dariya (river/ lake) was an important space of gathering of the crowd and of performers for showing off their skills.

Jahaz Mahal, a Lodi period water pavilion on the tank Hauz-i-Shamsi

Jahaz Mahal, a Lodi period water pavilion on the tank Hauz-i-Shamsi

 

 

Sports and Hunting:

Apart from the parties, performances and public gathering that went on in the vicinity of the water structures, they were also sites where the sport of hunting could be pursued. This pursuit could be made both by the royals and by the common travelers. It is significant to note that when passing through the country of Champarin, Peter Mundy came across two large tanks which were lying on the outskirts of the establishments he visited. He informs that there was abundance of fowl in both these tanks and when they stopped by them on their journey, they did manage to kill some of these fowls. Not only did the fowling take place in such structures but there was scope for fishing as well which was an important activity undertaken. Mention can be made here of a town which is called by Peter Mundy as Puttatalaw (Patthar-talao, Patari), it is said that by the side of this town was a Large Tank where the king used to stop by on his journey from Agra to Burhanpur. And it was in this tank that the Emperor enjoyed the sport of fowling and fishing. The lake under the city of Fatehpur Sikri is reported to have a store of fishes as well.

The water aesthetics along with public gathering, music, food, sport and parties present an interesting picture of public pleasure as was experienced around water structures.

A Sultanate period baoli at R.K. Puram Delhi

A Sultanate period baoli at R.K. Puram Delhi

 

 

Women and water architecture:

On the front of gender these spaces became domains of female expression and also acted as sites of gender interactions. The public nature of the spaces made these interactions discreet. Anecdotes mentioned in Waqiat-i-Mushtaqi , an important source of Afghan history, mentions many stories of forbidden love and most of them unfold in the theater of water structures. One of these stories takes place at the site of a well at Bhogaon, which was the stronghold of Rai Pratap the Rajput chief during the reign of Sultan Bahlul Lodi. It is reported that there was a girl who was drawing water from this well and a student who was passing by the place stopped by to have some water. On looking at this beautiful girl the student was captivated by her beauty and fell in love and refused to take water to drink from any other women who were present there but this woman. She agreed to give him water but got irritate because of the fact that he couldn’t drink water and continued to stare at her face, this made the woman angry and she asked him to jump in to the well. The lovestruck man soon jumped into the well and ended his life. There are more such anecdotes reported.  Ovington, a traveler in Mughal India gives a detailed analyses of the ornamentation and beauty of the Bania women who used to come to collect water from the well. He writes about their gold rings, bracelets and anklets which they show off when they go to collect water. These women might have come to well to collect water and gossip with the other women but they also were visible and accessible in these public spaces. These references  suggest that the public water structures were spaces of interaction of genders and of discreet, forbidden love in addition to being sites of regular mundane life activities.

Water spaces of medieval times then can be understood to have been lively places of much public activity, party and other pleasures and pleasantries. They also sometimes acted as means of subversion of social norms regarding gender.

An estimated 44,000 homes will have to be built every day to meet PM Modi’s target of providing a home to all urban poor by 2022

6 hurdles to building 44,000 homes a day

 

Less than seven years are left for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Housing for All scheme aimed at providing a home to all the urban poor by 2022—especially as

cities grow and migrants flow in from distressed rural areas.

This means an estimated 44,000 homes will have to be built every day or 16 million every year.

India Spend has identified six hurdles that the government must reckon with as it attempts to meet this target:

1. Cities are growing: Two Indian metros, Delhi and Mumbai were among the ten largest urban agglomerations in the world, as on 2014, while another, Kolkata is set to be among

the world’s top fifteen by 2030, according to the UN. There were 0.9 million homeless people in urban India as per the Census data of 2011, in addition to a slum population of

roughly 65 million. More than 90% of the ensuing housing shortage is constituted by what are called economically-weaker sections and low-income groups, according to

government data.

2. A migrant-flood is coming: People from India’s distressed rural areas, home to 833 million people, according to data released by the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC)

survey released earlier this month, are likely to flood into cities and towns in growing numbers as agricultural growth rates flounder. About 670 million people in rural areas live

on less than Rs 33 a day, as India Spend reported. India’s urban population is estimated to reach 600 million by 2031, up from about 380 million in 2011. Migrants make up a

sizeable chunk of India’s urban population, last estimated at 35 per cent by the National Sample Survey Organisation in 2007-08.

3. Indian slum populations are high: About 17 per cent of urban India–or about 65 million people–today live in slums. While these data are reflected in the Census, on a globally

comparable index, the proportion of urban population living in slums in India is high, as the chart below indicates.

4. Land will be hard to find: An estimated 2 lakh hectares of land will be required to build homes for the poor and plug housing shortages. To deal with the land shortage, some experts have called for vertical expansion by way of floor space index (FSI) relaxations. Mumbai has effected some FSI reform recently. However, most Indian cities are densely populated, with densities running into tens of thousands per square kilometre.

5. Maintaining standards will be a challenge: The sub-components of the Housing-For-All scheme include new units; credit-linked subsidies; beneficiary-led upgradation/construction; and upgrading/redevelopment of slum households. In the rush to build, the quality of construction will be a challenge. As the chart below shows, a third of existing housing units in India are already of a poor standard. This, of course, is not unlike several other emerging economies.

6. Breaking out of the regulatory maze: Among the most difficult challenges of Modi’s housing scheme would be the regulatory maze that enmeshes the construction-approval process in India, which the World Bank ranks as among the worst globally (see chart below). In India the approval process between land acquisition and commencement of construction can take as long as two years, real-estate consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle estimates.
Ease Of Getting Construction Permits Globally
Country                        Rank
South Africa                   32
Japan                              83
Bangladesh                    144
Russian Federation      156
Brazil                              174
China                              179
India                               184

Source: Ease of Doing Business, 2014 from World Bank

China Pakistan Economic Corridor

Plans for a corridor stretching from the Chinese border to Pakistan’s deep water ports on the Arabian Sea date back to the 1950s, and motivated construction of the Karakoram Highway beginning in 1959. Chinese interest in Pakistan’s deep-water harbour at Gwadar had been rekindled by 2000, and in 2002 China began construction at Gwadar port which was completed in 2006. Expansion of Gwadar Port then ceased thereafter owing to political instability in Pakistan following the fall of General Pervez Musharraf.A-rock-near-Pishkun-Balochistan

The current form of the project was first proposed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Nawaz Sharif on 22 May 2013 in Islamabad, resulting in the establishment of The Pak-China Economic Corridor Secretariat on 27 August 2013.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)  is a collection of projects currently under construction at a cost of $46 billion which is intended to rapidly expand and upgrade Pakistani infrastructure, as well as deepen and broaden economic links between Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China. The corridor is considered to be an extension of China’s ambitious proposed 21st century Silk Road initiative, and is considered central to China Pakistan relations.IMG_0176

While economic opportunities and development will largely benefit Pakistan, CPEC’s importance to China’s geopolitical and economic goals is reflected by the inclusion of the project as part of China’s 13th five-year development plan. Should all the planned projects be implemented, the value of those projects would be equal to all foreign direct investment in Pakistan since 1970,  and would be equivalent to 17% of Pakistan’s 2015 gross domestic product. Pakistan estimates the corridor project will create some 700,000 direct jobs between 2015–2030 and add up to 2.5 percentage points to the country’s growth rate.

Infrastructure projects under the aegis of CPEC will span the length and breadth of Pakistan, and will eventually link the Pakistani city of Gwadar in southwestern to China’s northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang via a vast network of highways and railways.  Proposed infrastructure projects are worth approximately $11 billion, and will be financed by heavily-subsidized concessionary loans at an interest rate of 1.6% that will be dispersed to the Government of Pakistan by the Exim Bank of China, China Development Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.Makran-Coastal-Highway-Project

As part of infrastructure projects worth approximately $11 billion, an 1,100 kilometre long motorway will be constructed between the cities of Karachi and Lahore, while the Karakoram Highway between Rawalpindi and the Chinese border will be completely reconstructed and overhauled. The Karachi–Peshawar main railway line will also be upgraded to allow for train travel at up to 160 kilometres per hour by December 2019. Pakistan’s railway network will also be extended to eventually connect to China’s Southern Xinjiang Railway in Kashgar. A network of pipelines to transport liquefied natural gas and oil will also be laid as part of the project, including a $2.5 billion pipeline between Gwadar and Nawabshah to transport gas from Iran.

Over $33 billion worth of energy infrastructure will be constructed by private consortia to help alleviate Pakistan’s chronic energy shortages, which regularly amount to over 4,500MW, and have shed an estimated 2-2.5% off Pakistan’s annual GDP. With approximately $33 billion expected to be invested in energy sector projects, power generation assumes an important role in the CPEC project. Over 10,400MW of energy generating capacity is to be developed between 2018 and 2020 as part of the corridor’s fast-tracked “Early Harvest” projects. Projects in Gwadar Port and City.Golden Ark Highway

Gwadar Port has been partially operational since 2007.
Gwadar forms the crux of the CPEC project, as it is envisaged to be the link between China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road project, and its Maritime Silk Road project. In total, more than $1 billion worth of projects are to be developed around the port of Gwadar by December 2017.

Project financing

Loans to the Pakistani Government

Approximately $11 billion worth of infrastructure projects being developed by the Pakistani government will be financed by concessionary loans, with interest rates of 1.6%, after Pakistan successfully lobbied the Chinese government to reduce interest rates from an initial 3%.The loans are subsidised by the government of China, and are to be dispersed by the Exim Bank of China and the China Development Bank. For comparison, loans for previous Pakistani infrastructure projects financed by the World Bank carried an interest rate between 5% and 8.5%, while interest rates on market loans approach 12%.

The loan money would be used to finance projects which are planned and executed by the Pakistani government. Portions of the approximately $6.6 billion Karachi–Lahore Motorway are already under construction. The $2.5 billion phase which will connect the city of Multan to the city of Sukkur over a distance of 387 kilometres has also been approved, with 90% of costs to be financed by the Chinese government at 1.6% interest rates, while the remaining 10% is to be financed by the Public Sector Development Programme of the Pakistani government.

The 487 kilometre portion of the Northern Alignment between Burhan and Raikot will be reconstructed at a cost of $920 million, and will be financed by the China Development Bank.

The long-planned 27.1 km long $1.6 billion Orange Line of the Lahore Metro is regarded as a commercial project project, and does not qualify for the Exim Bank’s 1.6% interest rate. It will instead by financed at a 2.4% interest rate after China agreed to reduce interest rates from an originally planned rate of 3.4%.

The $44 million Cross Border Optic Fiber Project, a 1,300 km long fibre optic wire connecting Pakistan and China, will be constructed using concessionary loans at an interest rate of 2%, rather than the 1.6% rate applied to other projects.

Special interest-free loans for Gwadar

The government of China in August 2015 announced that concessionary loans for several projects in Gwadar totalling $757 million would be converted 0% interest loans. The projects which are now to financed by the 0% interest loans include: the construction of the $140 million Eastbay Expressway project, installation of breakwaters in Gwadar which will cost $130 million, a $360 million coal power plant in Gwadar, a $27 million project to dredge berths in Gwadar harbour, and a $100 million 300-bed hospital in Gwadar. Pakistan will only repay the principle on these loans.

In September 2015, the government of China also announced that the $230 million Gwadar International Airport project would no longer be financed by loans, but would instead be constructed by grants which the government of Pakistan will not be required to repay.

Loans to private consortia

$15.5 billion worth of energy projects are to be constructed by joint Chinese-Pakistani firms, rather than by the governments of either China or Pakistan. The Exim Bank of China will finance those investments at 5–6% interest rates, while the government of Pakistan will be contractually obliged to purchase electricity from those firms at pre-negotiated rates.

As an example, the 1,223MW Balloki Power Plant does not fall under the concessionary loan rate of 1.6%, as the project is not being developed by the Pakistani government. Instead, it is considered to be a private sector investment as its construction will be undertaken by a consortium of Harbin Electric and Habib Rafiq Limited after they successfully bid against international competitors. Chinese state-owned banks will provide loans to the consortium that are subsidised by the Chinese government. In the case of the Balloki Power Plant, state-owned banks will finance the project at an interest rate of 5%, while the Pakistani government will purchase electricity at the lowest bid rate of 7.973 cents per unit.

Asian Development Bank assistance

While the E-35 expressway is considered to be a crucial part of the route between Gwadar and China, the E35 will not be financed by CPEC funds. The project will instead be financed by the Asian Development Bank.

The N70 project is not officially a part of CPEC but will connect the CPEC’s Western Alignment to the Karachi-Lahore Motorway at Multan. The project will be financed as part of a $195 million package by the Asian Development Bank announced in May 2015 to upgrade the N70 National Highway and N50 National Highway. In January 2016, The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development announced a $72.4 million grant to Pakistan for roadway improvements in the province of Balochistan, thereby reducing the total Asian Development Bank loan from $195 million to $122.6 million.

The M-4 Motorway between Faisalabad and Multan is not to be financed by the Chinese government as part of CPEC, but will instead be the first infrastructure project partially financed by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and will be co-financed along with the Asian Development Bank for a total of approximately $275 million. Portions of the project will also be funded by a $90.7 million grant announced in October 2015 by the government of the United Kingdom towards the construction of the Gojra-Shorkot section of the M4 Motorway project.

 

Controversy over finances

In addition to the aforementioned issues, some sources have inappropriately suggested that the interest rate for CPEC related loans would be high, with one Indian source suggesting that Pakistan had unwittingly accepted loans that would “be offered at very high rates of interest,” although the actual interest rates were negotiated prior to acceptance, and for most projects will be 1.6% Several articles in Pakistan have criticised the project’s finances as being shrouded in mystery, while one article suggested that “there is far too much secrecy and far too little transparency.” The Private Power and Infrastructure Board has also been accused of irregularities in the approval process for coal power plants and the tariffs at which Pakistan is contractually obliged to purchase electricity from those plants, with special concern regarding potential irregularities in the tariff approved for the 300MW coal power plant to be built in Pind Dadan Khan by China Machinery Engineering Corporation.

Geopolitical impact

CPEC is considered economically vital to Pakistan in helping it drive economic growth. China has expressed concern that some separatist groups in Xinjiang may be collaborating with insurgents in Pakistan, and has expressed a desire to strengthen security ties.6086978

Opposition from Baloch nationalists

Baloch nationalists have expressed opposition to the project, stating that any large-scale development in the province would eventually lead to local residents “losing control” over natural resources. Other Baloch nationalists view it as a “conspiracy” that would stimulate migration of people from other provinces and make the Baloch a minority in the province.

Former Chief Minister of Balochistan province, Akhtar Mengal, suggested at a political rally in November 2015, that execution of CPEC projects would eventually result in ethnic Baloch being denied entry into the city, though no statements have been made in either Pakistan or China that would suggest such an outcome. He did, however, clarify that he would not oppose development projects in the province that he believed would uplift the plight of local residents. Shortly thereafter, the Pakistani government announced its intention to establish a training institute named Pak-China Technical and Vocational Institute at Gwadar which is to be completed by March 2016 at the cost of 943 million rupees to impart skills to local residents to train them to operate machinery at the port.

Indian objections to CPEC

The Government of India, which shares tense relations with Pakistan, regards portions of the CPEC project negatively as they pass through disputed territory which is claimed by India. Former Indian ambassador, Phunchok Stobdan, alleged that China and Pakistan intended to develop the corridor not just for its economic benefits, but also is motivated by the “strategic intent of besieging India,” though he also stated that India can do little to scuttle CPEC, and that avoiding China’s One Road One Belt project altogether would be to the detriment of India.

During the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China in 2015, the Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj reportedly told Chinese Premier Xi Jinping that projects passing through Gilgit-Baltistan are “unacceptable” as they require road construction in territory India regards as its own. India’s Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar also confirmed that the issue had been raised with the Chinese government on the trip.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs in May 2015 also summoned the Chinese envoy in New Delhi to lodge India’s opposition to the project. The Chinese Premier dismissed the concerns, describing CPEC as a “commercial project” that would not target any third party.

In March 2016, Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in reference to China’s ambitions One Road One Belt project and CPEC, stated that India’s vision of Asian connectivity was that of a consultative process rather than that of “unilateral decisions,” and that they should not “add to regional tensions.”

Despite objections, segments of the Indian public, as exemplified by former Indian Ambassador Melkulangara Bhadrakumar, regard the project as in India’s interest vis-a-vis Central Asia, and warn that India might “lose heavily” were India to remain opposed and isolated from the project.

In March 2016, Pakistan announced that it had arrested a suspected spy from India’s Research and Analysis Wing, Kulbhushan Yadav, who Pakistan accused of entering Pakistan from Iran specifically to destabilise regions in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province to hinder implementation of CPEC projects.

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