Dhamori Village Masterplan

69% of India, a population of about 833 million lives in villages, and only 34% of this rural population has access to basic sanitation.

-- Census of India, 2011 and JMP, 2015

In a country of 1.3 billion, it is important to take stock of the fact that hardly any designers work with two-thirds of the country’s population that lives in its villages. The Critical Places team worked with Member of Parliament Padmashree Dr. Vikas Mahatme ji, all official stakeholders, and the residents of Dhamori Village to develop a village development plan that will serve as a blueprint for future development of Dhamori. We also developed three site specific designs that act as multifunctional landscapes, addressing critical issues while also serving as the village community’s new public spaces.

The Critical Places team identified the key problems Dhamori residents face with their built environment. These are the needs of more irrigation water, lack of sanitation, waste-water and solid waste mismanagement, and lack of public space. The various design strategies that the design team proposed address these critical issues while also adding aesthetic value and providing culturally meaningful places.


Dhamori, Maharashtra




Research + Design + Planning


Alpa Nawre, Saurabh Lohiya, Astrid Tsz Wai Wong, Leslie Johnson, Skandha Upadhyay, Kabir

Geographic Context: The village of Dhamori is located in the state of Maharashtra.


The Critical Places Team is grateful to the Landscape Architecture Foundation for supporting this experimental and transformative project. The LAF Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership awarded to Alpa Nawre supported all expenses for this project. See more information about the project in Alpa Nawre's presentation Critical Places: Design Interventions to Address Water and Other Issues in Rural India.

Water Infrastructure Map: A map of existing water infrastructure conditions in Dhamori village that combines GIS information with site observations to prepare informed strategies for developing a robust sustainable water plan.


80% of India’s poor, defined as “those who live on $1.90 a day or less” by the World Bank, live in rural communities (World Bank, 2012; World Bank, 2019). Additionally, rural populations have higher unemployment rates than urban areas, as well as underemployment rates, as much of the work may be seasonal manual labor that does not provide a year-round income. Thus, an important aspect of the solutions proposed was the need to connect strategies to economic development. For example, the water harvesting farm-ponds proposed by the design team combined aquaculture and chicken coops over the ponds so that chicken waste can become the feed for fish and farmers can benefit economically in multiple ways – through increased crop yield through availability of irrigation water, aquaculture that can be used for both subsistence and commercial purpose and the chicken coops that prevent water from evaporating as well as provide feed for fish and value in the market when sold.

Water Harvesting Farm-Ponds: Diagram showing proposed aquaculture system that benefits farmers financially in a sustainable way.

COMMUNITY FEEDBACK: Based on discussions with Muslim women, design of some public spaces were accommodated with elements that addressed their particular needs for privacy.


In such contexts, design development, planning and evaluation cannot be dependent on only site and usage observation, inventory and analysis. Conversations and feedback from key stakeholders is a crucial component to understanding both the socio-cultural nuances influencing design and the feasibility of design ideas. For example, between the many different design solutions possible to a given problem, those solutions that have governmental incentives and support have the most likelihood of being implemented. Thus, one of the key tasks for the Critical Places design team was to get feedback from various government officers from departments such as Fisheries and Livestock, Agriculture and Irrigation, Block Development and similar to understand current government schemes and financial incentives. Similarly, community feedback and buy-in was also critical to the final design ideas developed. Feedback from the community and other stakeholders influenced design strategies.

Meeting with Government Officers: Critical Places team meets with the Forest Department.

The simultaneous workflow that combined technical data and expertise with local knowledge mutually informed the site analysis and, ultimately, the plan.

The new village development master plan is rooted in existing governmental incentives, site conditions, and socio-cultural habits of the people to propose a working landscape that connects the economic with the cultural.

Dhamori Site Plan: The new site plan for the village of Dhamori addresses issues of water pollution.


For more place-based solutions, three sites that are classified as public land in the village land-use maps were designed as landscape infrastructure for addressing the five key issues and are a part of the overall strategies and systems proposed in the Masterplan. These are designed as multifunctional landscapes and will also serve as the village community’s new public spaces.

The first focus site adjoins the talaab and is designed to address irrigation water scarcity and provide a space for aquaculture, while also being developed as a tourist attraction and a social space.

Irrigation Water: Aerial view of the stream running alongside Dhamori.

Talaab Edge: Site-specific design ideas to provide amenities to the villagers and strengthen the identity of the public space of the talaab as a community hub.


The second site is the area adjacent to the river and close to the village market where grey-water and non-biodegradable solid waste from the village settlement passes through before draining into the stream.

The third site is an area used for open defecation along the stream bank. Monsoon flooding of the stream is a problem for the community living along the stream embankment, offering design opportunities to transform the site into a public working landscape infrastructure that addresses critical water issues on site.

Drainage in Dhamori: Uncovered nalas, or drains, line Dhamori's roads, collecting trash as water travels to the stream.

Waste-water Treatment: The second focus site is designed to treat waste-water before draining into the stream, thus improving the river ecology while simultaneously providing spaces for outdoor classrooms, play structures, and nature observation areas.


Another issue present in Dhamori is the number of trash piles throughout the settlement and near its waterways. If trash is visible, it encourages everyone to throw more trash and destroy the civil environment. Likewise, many of the nalas (open water channels) become blocked with sediment and trash, creating standing, stagnant water throughout the settlement. Not only does the trash breed germs and the water become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, mosquitoes - it also looks unsightly.

Dhamori Community Speaks: Dhamori sarpanch [village council-head] and villagers discuss water and waste-related issues facing their community.

Community Testimonies: Dhamori resident Shri Ganesh ji discusses the impact the Critical Places team has had on his village.

Landscape Infrastructure: The third design transforms an area used for open defecation and susceptible to monsoonal flooding into a landscape infrastructure that can provide more flood-bearing capacity, public toilets and black-water filtration systems.

“The team...has done a 'Himalayeen Task' of bringing together people from all age groups of diverse socio-economic backgrounds. This has resulted in formulating a village development plan of Dhamori in solving their local problems namely water supply, cleanliness, sanitation, boosting agricultural production etc. ”

-- Words of recognition for Critical Places Team by Honorable Member of Parliament and Padmashree, Dr Vikas Mahatme ji