For 1st time in 89 yrs, Parsi Colony agiary well runs dry

parsi-wellMUMBAI: For 89 years, the well in the compound of the Rustom Faramna Agiary in Dadar Parsi Colony offered up clear, natural water for the temple’s sacred rites. But last week, in the span of a few days, the waters suddenly receded and the well dried up. “This has never happened before,” said the dismayed temple administrator and priest, Kaizad Karkaria.

Municipal and private engineers who inspected the area lay the blame on nearby construction sites where the ground is being excavated for high-rises. According to Shahrokh Bagli, a veteran geotechnical engineer who inspected the area for the temple, a sudden fall in the waterline can only mean that heavy “dewatering” is occurring nearby. Dewatering refers to the practice of draining groundwater from a construction site in order to lay pile foundations or build a basement.

“There are only two construction sites near the temple, and from our observations, the one closer to the agiary is doing the dewatering,” he said. North ward officer Keshav Ubale concurred with this assessment after consulting his engineers. “But there is no direct proof, and the developers have their building permissions,” he said.

A similar phenomenon occurred at the well of the Lalbaug fire temple in 2005 when an underground car park for a tower was being constructed.
The good news, says Bagli, is that water may return to the Dadar temple well once the foundation work is finished, especially if there is a good monsoon. The bad news is that the well-water is not the only thing that can be affected by improperly done dewatering–it can also affect nearby structures especially older buildings which have shallower foundations.

That’s alarming for the entire neighbourhood, said Zareen Engineer of the Mancherji Joshi Edulji Residents Association, since many of the buildings here date back to the 1920s. A number of 10 storey-plus buildings, which would require deep foundations, are now under construction in the colony .
It’s also a concern for the entire island city , where tall buildings are sprouting up right next to conventional older structures. Tunelling work for the metro system poses a similar risk. “If the builders and engineers are careful, spend a little more money and use the right techniques, there won’t be a problem,” Bagli said. “But if they want to cut costs, there will be.”

The municipality should check what’s happening on construction sites, he said.

Back at the fire temple, Karkaria has been forced to improvise, first by filling the well with tanker water, and then, when that water too was drawn down, by dropping a pipe down the well from their municipal supply.

These measures are less than ideal. Water, like fire, holds a special place in Zoroastrian liturgy . Daily prayer rites at fire temples begin by drawing water from the well which is then used in all ceremonies and for the ritual purification of the priests. This consecrated water must come from a natural source.

“But what can I do?” asked Karkaria. “We serve the largest community of Parsis in the city, we can’t stop our daily rites.” Development and business are the way of the world, he said. “But they shouldn’t destroy things that are important.”

Published on Times of India