Stepwells at Osmania University: Restoration of Three Heritage Water Systems (Hyderabad, Telangana)
There are three historic stepwells on the campus of Osmania University which are currently in a dilapidated state due to years of neglect; they are the stepwells at the Education Department, the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) Campus, and the Adikmet colony.
These ancient water structures were part of a historic estate belonging to the erstwhile royal family associated with Mah Laqa Chanda Bai, a famous female poet, singer, and political advisor at the court of the second and third Nizams of Hyderabad.
In those days, the stepwells were used to support the drinking water needs of the royal estate during the dry season, while their surroundings served as places for cultural performances and social gatherings. Due to rapid urbanization around the campus and expansion of the University starting in the mid-20th century, the ground water was depleted, and the stepwells fell into disrepair. The bores dug by the University could not meet its water needs.
The revival of these historic stepwells is very important in the context of heightened water scarcity and increased need for resource conservation. Once restored, these water systems would not only meet the modern-day needs of the University, but they would also recharge the ground water. Research and mapping conducted by The Rainwater Project and SAHE show that all these stepwells are connected through subterranean aquifers which could be revived to meet the water needs of the community.
In addition to the functional aspect, these stepwells also have significant architectural features that deserve to be saved, such as beautiful arcades with corridors and multiple terraces connected by stairways.
State of Conservation
Multiple issues affect these stepwells, including:
- Debris and garbage deposits built up over many decades.
- Vegetation overgrowth
- Soil and silt deposits which have closed the natural aquifer, the water source.
- Deteriorated architectural elements such as broken parapets and stairways.
- Loss of plaster, cracks in vaults, broken masonry, etc.
The revival of the stepwells will proceed in three stages, as follows:
- Cleaning, dewatering, desilting, and waste removal – to revive the natural source of water, the subterranean aquifer.
- Restoring the architectural integrity and original finishes of the heritage structures.
- Refurbishing the areas around the stepwells for adaptive reuse, to make the spaces relevant for modern needs.
This project will have multiple benefits for the University community and surrounding areas, namely:
- Conservation of historic water structures
- Water resource management
- Meeting drinking water needs
- Flood mitigation
- Sustainable economic redevelopment
The Project proposal is initiated by The Rainwater Project in collaboration with Deccan Heritage Foundation with full support of Osmania University.
Funds are being sought to restore the three stepwells. The total cost of the project is estimated at $247,000, broken down as follows:
|Name of stepwell||Estimated cost|
|1.||Stepwell at Education Department||103,26,316||125,931|
|2.||Stepwell at EFLU Campus||72,00,000||87,805|
|3.||Stepwell at Adikmet colony||27,00,000||32,927|
Approximately half of the required funds have been secured, and we are currently looking to raise approximately $125,000.
The Rainwater Project
The Telangana State Government
Conservation of historic water structures
Water resource management
Meeting drinking water needs
Sustainable economic redevelopment
Funds are being sought to support the restoration of all three stepwells at a cost of $247,000