Water Wows to Woes

Sometimes what creates history sinks into oblivion or gets overshadowed by the layers of civilizations. Water is one such ‘character’ that has been the common tandem for the global history encompassing all the dynasties. Imagine, when administration was under a single ruler, how was water managed in a semi arid zone, which had low rainfall, dry winter, soaring mercury for most of its months? And that’s how water became sacred when wisdom bolstered the self-sufficient models of water security. The robust trio of Amer, Nahargarh and Jaigarh Forts are not just laudable concrete wonders but also exemplary ancient water marvels. The canals, channels, pools, stepwells, tanks functioned in unity with nature to harvest water with utmost diligence.

When Amer carried the throne, it had two sources of water, rain water harvesting within the Fort structure and the Maota lake from where water was lifted through specific mechanisms. Around 15 stepwells are registered in and around the old town of Amer. Nahargarh had channels coiled around 6 kms in the vicinity which brought the rain water into the two large stepwells at the fort along with a kund (tank) wherein rain water got collected. Jaigarh remains the most impressive example of a storage model with 5 big reservoirs that stored the water that flowed in from the catchment areas through the canals spread around 4 kms. The biggest tank is 40 feet deep with three levels that can store 6 million gallons of water. Unlike the stepwells, these tanks were covered to prevent evaporation. One feature that stayed intelligently common for all three forts was the silt trapping and precise declivity that contributed to a smooth course of flow.

The infant Jaipur grew with groundwater, which later got the aid of Amanishah Nala that transported water collected into the tanks through various canals  in the city. In 1874, the Nala was tapped and steam engines started pumping water to Jaipur through a pipeline network. 1900s came, and mouths multiplied rapidly which obviously demanded for augmentation in water supply. And King to the rescue; Ramgarh Dam was built that gushed water to the households by 1931, and later the first 5 residential colonies outside the walled city (Adarsh Nagar, Banipark, C-Scheme, New Colony, Fateh Tibba) also drank through this supply. Post-independence chaos shook the planning backbone and eventually by the 1980s, Ramgarh was silted up to 14ft which ultimately resulted as an alarming call. So in 1989, the government approved a water supply futile scheme to fetch 18 million liters per day from Bandi basin, 20 kms far from Jaipur, thereafter Bisalpur dam was commissioned by the Rajasthan government in mid 90s, which started supplying water to Jaipur in 2009. Meanwhile by 1999, Ramgarh dam became an arid patch and wells were already dug around the Nala to fetch water.

Presently, 518 rivulets originating from Aravalli Hills are either choked to death by garbage or a victim of illegal constructions. Industrial processes have caused severe degradation in the quality of groundwater and needless to mention about the overexploitation of resources thereby sinking the water table deep down somewhere to dwarf land. Introspection would rather be a better choice in this case than slamming the governments.

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