Restoring Arab ki Sarai Baoli could prove to be the answer to Water Shortage Problems across India

At a time where the capital of India, Delhi is facing problems of water scarcity, the conservation of Arab ki Baoli could be a model project which could further the restoration of water conservation buildings in India. The restoration would not only serve the purpose of water management but also step up the architectural conservation scenario.


This 16th-century structure is significant from the historical point of view as the walled enclosure stands within the Humayun’s Tomb, a UNESCO world heritage site. The records of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) lists Arab Sarai to be built in 1560 by Hamida Banu Begum, the chief consort of Mughal emperor Humayan, to provide accommodation to 300 Arabs she had brought back from Mecca.

If this project proves to be successful, then this could make the task of water conservation easy across the whole country as this traditional infrastructure for conserving water already exists in many states. 


The project commenced under the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AGTC) in January 2017, by using monetary assistance from US Ambassador’s Fund For Cultural Preservation. In the conservation process of the baoli, the challenging part was ensuring the structural stability of the building and to prevent further collapses, especially as the roof covering the well had collapsed. The heritage conservationist working for the project informed,” Many structural elements in the baoli have collapsed or are in an advanced state of collapse, and not everything could be restored. The main walls of baoli were beyond repair and required urgent measures to prevent further deterioration”. Ratish Nanda, the head of AGTC giving insight on the progress of the project said, “Indeed, water conservation is critical. This baoli will also recharge groundwater aquifers. To enable this, grounds around baolis are being regraded. Currently, we have piped water for irrigation.” The regrading of earth within the Arab ki Sarai Bazaar would allow the rainwater to collect within the baoli with a catchment area of 1.5 lakh liters. The restoration of the structure would make it available for multiple uses, as the market complex has arched cells that are reported to have been used as shops and living quarters by travelers and traders.   

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