Relational River Rights

Design Dialogues with the River Goddess Yamuna

Prashi Malik

Kees Lokman Shaheed H Karim

Located in New Delhi, India, this project seeks to expand upon the understanding of river rights through a lens of pluralism and relationality. Although culturally, River Yamuna is considered a revered Goddess in the country, her water continues to be contaminated beyond repair. How does a river which is so sacred, become so polluted? Granted that this issue of freshwater waste stems from political unwillingness and lack of necessary infrastructure, but it is worsened by a strong sense of apathy within the local community of this Indian democracy.

The dialogue on ‘Rights of Nature’ is an extension of the discourse on ‘Meaning of ‘Nature’, a theme central to the discipline of Landscape Architecture. This research attempts to understand and untangle ‘Rights of River Yamuna’ as informed by the cultural mythology and regional worldviews.How could a more pluralist, relational understanding of ‘nature’, particularly ‘river’, inform landscape architecture practice in the River Yamuna floodplain? Knowing whoGoddess Yamuna is, being able to empathize with her and vicariously feel her sentiments when her rights are violated, will encourage change in the floodplain practices of the local population and instigate a democratic demand for better systems to support Yamuna’s health. This project further proposes future design narratives to counter the aforementioned apathy by giving the river Goddess Yamuna a voice, making her a participant, a client, and a consistent presence in the subsequent development of her floodplain, making freshwater visible and seen in all design dialogues.



River Rights & Personality Sketch of Goddess Yamuna