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Architecture Built 1,000 Years Ago to Catch Rain is Being Revived to Save India’s Parched Villages

15 November 2021
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Stepwells are sometimes small stone-lined trenches, capturing rainwater and refilling underground aquafers, while others are masterpieces of inverted architecture. The stepwells are known as “baolis” or “bwaris” and have not always been conserved as monuments to cherish. Instead, many of India’s more than 3,000 baolis have fallen into disrepair or abandonment, being buried by foliage. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture works with stepwells around the country, sandblasting the build-up of toxic residue and crumbing material and working with heritage architects for governments interested in repairing the baolis. “When they began clearing what they thought was a garbage dump, they found the structure of a step-well beneath the garbage,” writes Vikramjit Singh Rooprai, a heritage advocate and writer who works with the AKTC and who is working on the restoration of India’s baolis.