Step wells were once an elaborate water management system in Hyderabad, helping slake the city’s thirst and keep the water table up. The city’s administration, with the help of private bodies, is now at at work to revive some of them.
The Metropolitan Development Authority took to reviving ancient step wells (know as ‘baulis’ in western and northern India and in the Deccan) in and around the Deccan plateau of the City of Nawabs a few months ago. Those at Gudi Malkapur, Sitarambagh, Gachibowli, Ammapally, Qutb Shahi Bada Bouli, which was restored by the Aga Khan Trust, and Bapu Ghat now stand pristine with groundwater gushing, while several others are being spotted and excavated for rejuvenation. Even rainwater will flow from nearby areas into the rejuvenated wells and help recharge groundwater.
The idea is to replenish groundwater in the expanding metropolis, where urban flooding has set off alarms. The Bansilalpet step well, a huge receptacle of debris and garbage till some time ago, was revived with active pressure from a group of rainwater harvesting enthusiasts which found that these wells and rejuvenated aquifers could help citizens in times of drought. Anuradha Reddy, heritage conservationist, says, “Three types of step wells existed in Telangana and elsewhere in the country: agricultural, round and walk-ins. If the restoration produces the desired results, I would be the most happiest person.” She, however, fears that the foundations of multi-storey buildings around the wells could choke the aquifers ‘
Pristine condition: The rejuvenated Ammapalli step well near Shamshabad on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
In the ruins: An abandoned step well at Sitarambagh, near Asifnagar, in Hyderabad.
New life: The step well at Gudi Malkapur on the western fringe of Hyderabad, scheduled for revival soon.
Going deep: Excavation on to revive the Bansilalpet step well at Secunderabad.
Springs of life: The Babu Ghat step well after refresh.
Restored glory: The Bada Bouli step well built by the 19th century Quli Qutab Shah dynasty inside the tomb complex near the Golconda Fort (not in picture) and revived by the Aga Khan Trust recently
Water’s beauty: The Bansilalpet step well attracts tourists.
Steep descent: Down the the Bansilalpet step well.