Man Sagar Lake
Who built Jaipur’s Man Sagar Lake? History presents a mute smile to answer this. ‘Man’ denotes Raja Man Singh (16th Century) who ruled at Amber. Did he build this Man Sagar? We wonder whether he had a moment’s rest to do so, for his entire tenure was engrossed in organizing campaigns for Emperor Akbar. Jal Mahal was (reportedly) created by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, who established the city of Jaipur in 1727.
The location of this Lake is of considerable significance since it joins the neo-ancient Amber with late medieval Jaipur and serves as a lively junction between the old and the new. The Lake forms part of Jaipur’s northern frontal facade, which is marked by hills, forests, forts, heritage buildings, Ashwamegh Yajna site and cluster of Temples, and casts a spell binding charm over visitors.
Yet, the Lake and its Palace, Jal Mahal, have been allowed to deteriorate for years. Their decline and neglect is a strange tale of apathy: of the Government - who is belatedly trying to improve the Lake’s aquatic life - of the people living around the Lake and of the bird watchers. The latter have simply lamented the declining numbers of migratory species reported at the Lake.
Man Sagar Lake is spread over 310 acres (about 1.25 square kilometers). Its average depth is from 2.5 meter to 3.5 meter. The catchment area has been estimated to be 23.5 square kilometer, comprising the Aravalli hills and northern portion of the city of Jaipur. Until a few decades ago, the Lake used to be full to the brim soon after the monsoon (July-August) and the water, though reduced during the peak of summer, would remain throughout the year. Over the years, while there are fewer intakes from the monsoon and the hills, owing to several reasons - natural and unnatural - the intake from the city has increased due to raw sewage flowing into the Lake: nearly 40 million liter per day. Two open drains, one from Brahmapuri region and another from Transport Nagar area, discharge waste water from kitchens, baths, toilets etc. as well as toxic liquid from calico printing units. During monsoon, the storm water from the city, which can peak at nearly 100 cubic meter per second, also flows into the Lake. This flow brings into the Lake animal and human excreta, silt, chemicals, etc. Consequently the Lake water has high content of BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand); it can be from 500 to 800 mg per liter (i.e. 500 to 800 mg of oxygen to be added to neutralize the organic contents).
There is high rate of evaporation and seepage from the Lake, which reduces the water level to about 1 meter during summer. Therefore, what used to be a wondrous site for aquatic birds got reduced to large and small patches of putrid water, and the very survival of Man Sagar was under threat. It became an endangered aquatic habitat. This was the assessment of Jaipur based Bird Watchers and Environmentalists, who knocked at the doors of the Government time and again to remedy the situation. Almost nothing happened barring a de-silting campaign initiated by the then Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot (2002). It did somewhat enhance the water capacity of the Lake but did not tackle the problem of sewage flow into its bed. Foul odour pervaded the surroundings of the Lake, which presented an unhealthy sight.
It was at this stage that our Group, led by TWSI and assisted by some noted Indian and overseas conservation organizations as well as experts, tried to put things right by organizing the annual Birding Fair at the Lake embankment. It was intended to illicit public support, highlight the plight of the Lake and initiate some gold measures to improve the water quality. The Fairs have resulted in a few positive decisions at Government level, better awareness for Lake conservation and a private Company, Jal Mahal Resorts Private Limited (JMRPL) , coming forward to share the responsibility for the conservation of the Lake.
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our Group and participate in this unique and exciting conservation