The 10th megacity of India, where heritage brims from every nook and corner; ironically owes an apology to heritage. 19 years, since the last time Ramgarh Dam felt its identity when 33 feet 9 inches of water level was recorded. 37 years, since the water level in the lake rose to its highest capacity of 64 feet 5 inches. 36 years ago, Ramgarh lake earned the historical crest by hosting the rowing competitions of mega sports event, Asian Games of 1982. It was the same year when Government of India, declared it to be a Wildlife Sanctuary due to the dense forest inhabiting varied species of animals including Neelgai, Chital, Lion and hundreds of crocodiles. The embankment was a great habitat for migratory birds too. Head on to the sulking site during monsoon, and the air shall do the talking about the drama around Aravalis.
Not very long ago, once a hunting destination for Maharajas of Jaipur, was chosen by Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh 2nd to be the ground for a manmade lake and dam that could quench the growing city. After 6 years of construction, in 1903, the then Governor General of Rajputana, Mr Crasthwest set afloat the 15.5 square kilometres widespread vision of the King by inaugurating it. For almost a century, the dam served its purpose with the rivers Roda, Banganga, Tala and Madhoveni, who brought water into the lake. The scenic charm of Ramgarh enticed innumerable tourists and Jaipurites as a great picnic spot and even Maharaja Man Singh 2nd and Maharani Gayatri Devi were enslaved by the beauty of it. Sir Swinton Jacob, who designed the Albert Hall and other famous architectural assets of the city, created their getaway lodge by the backdrop of hills here which is now The Gateway Hotel Ramgarh Lodge, the only gem at this neglected canvas.
What stole the soul of this oasis then? Rigorous urbanization and population bomb, that made a compromising deal with the original planning of the city and mute authorities became the cherry of the cake. Groundwater depletion and exploitation, lack of water management and education in addition with the rampant encroachments bereft the water reservoir of its glory. Over 400 water bodies like ponds, contour bundings and anicuts in the catchment area have left it in a parching state. According to India Water Portal, after the Rajasthan High Court took suo moto cognisance of the drying up of Ramgarh Lake in 2011, it was found that its catchment area, spread over 700 sq km, had as many as 405 anicuts and 800 encroachments ranging from farmhouses to education institutes. Did it just read education institutes? Such a sorry state of education in this case!
Another neglected point is that of silt deposition that has reduced the storage capacity coupled with the soil conservation activities which have poisoned the lake. This premature demise of a site like this is a question mark on our urban sensibilities, education, governance and integrity. Do we really care about the natural history and geographical aesthetics? Or probably we wait for a social media campaigns with a paper boat floating illustration to pay heed to subjects like these!