The Step Well restoration lies at the heart of the JDH project. It is a textbook example of how public-private partnership can revive an ancient archeological marvel – and create a brand new community space in the process.
Restoration expert and Step Well custodian Kr. Dhananajaya Singh tells us how it was done:
★★ Step 1 ★★ The Step Well was filled to ground level with filthy, stagnant water. This was pumped out on a 24-hour cycle for several months with the help of the Municipality (who used it to wash out sewage lines) and the Electricity Department, who provided an uninterrupted supply free of charge to a high-powered pump provided by RAAS. As the levels receded, the layers of garbage were manually collected and scraped off every step by a work force provided by RAAS and BCHPL/JDH. Over 250 tractor-trolley loads were evacuated by tractors operating through the nights.
★★ Step 2 ★★ Decades of toxic water had turned the high quality red sandstone to white, with a half-an inch thick crust covering much of the surface. This crust was painstakingly chiseled and chipped away by a team of experienced master stone-masons, while avoiding damage to the stone.
★★ Step 3 ★★ After the crust was removed, the surface of the Step Well was sand-blasted (using fine grain sand at very high pressure) to remove the last vestiges of the sediment. This revealed, at last, the famous rose red sandstone of Jodhpur.
★★ Step 4 ★★ Once the sand had been rinsed away, our focus turned to the water. It was recycled and reoxygenated for many months; a process that continues three times a week. Best of all, the population of fish in the Jhalra has shot up, which is the surest indicator of water quality!
The final stage is now underway. Finishing touches include pointing of stonework, replacement of carved features, installation of safety railings, surface and underwater lighting, signage, street furniture and horticulture. What was once a wasteland will soon be transformed into a vibrant public platform for social, cultural and historical activity.