RAM GARH LAKE – The Sad Story

Exhausting a renewable resource

 PART – 2  in continuation of PART – 1  

It was only when in 2011 the Honorable Rajasthan High Court took suo moto cognizance of the drying up of Ramgarh Lake, it was found that its catchment area, spread over 700 sq km, had about 405 anicuts and 800 encroachments ranging from farmhouses to education institutes. More than 800 encroachments were referred to the relevant departments but only half-hearted actions were taken against a handful of small encroachers while the big encroachers have been left undisturbed even though the Rajasthan High Court has given Jaipur Development Authority the permission to take strict action.

Action on anicuts is cheap and easy and can be taken within no time but instead, the authorities started looking at solutions like linking of Brahmani, a tributary of Chambal river, with Ramgarh Lake. We believe, a feasibility report is now being prepared for the same by the government.

The authorities with all the powers vested in them, can easily remove all deterrents and diversions and replicate the situation as it was in the year 1982 but it so appears that there is no will to revive… AND as we all know that drying of rivers and lakes is in the best interest of land grabbers and encroachers. Tremendous increase in the cost of land has led to the encroachment of most of the natural flows in the catchment area. As the land of the natural flows is flattened by the people for their agricultural activity, this is leading to the shrinkage in the volume of runoff.

There are several factors responsible for drying of the lake which can be attributed to less natural and more of man-made causes.

Factors Responsible of Drying of Dam

Natural Causes

  • Fluctuating trend of Rainfall.
  • A drastic fall in rainfall in some particular year results in drying of the surface and soil moisture to the extent that next year’s rainfall is not enough to generate the runoff in the streams. In the year 2002 there was minimal rainfall 314 mm recorded at Jamwa Ramgarh after which Dam never got filled enough to supply water
Annual Rainfall Data for Jamwa Ramgarh

Man-made Causes

  • The dam has been silted up to a depth of approximately 4.57m and resulting in reduction of its storage capacity.
  • There are many small rivers and drains in the area which supply water to the Ramgarh dam, but flow of the rivers was obstructed due to huge constructions/encroachments by educational institutions & Sprawling Entertainment Resorts with huge swimming pools
  • Rampant Mining and Stone Quarries, uncontrolled rampage and Disappearance of hills, resulting in low stream flow and runoff.
  • Increase in activities like Soil Conservation, Agriculture and Watershed Development. Soil conservation department, NGOs and individuals have covered majority of the areas by various activities of soil conservation, which has reduced the velocity of flow resulting in higher infiltration as well as high rate of evaporation.
  • There are around 415 water bodies like village ponds, anicuts, contour bundings etc. in the catchment area of Ramgarh dam. The height of these structures is in the range of 2 to 8 m, which is sufficient to retain runoff.
  • Water is also obstructed by construction of Ditches and bunding along the contours in foot hills.
  • It is also observed that several roads have been constructed by various agencies raised to 1-3 m high embankments in the catchment area and at some places the roads are constructed across the main river obstructing a significant volume of water.
  • Several authorized and unauthorized mining activities exist at number of places in the catchment area; such activities have caused obstruction in the natural flow of rain water.
  • In most of the catchment areas, farmers have constructed water harvesting structures in the forms of Dols or Mud–bundi (low height earthen dams) in their farms, which harvest water for their local purpose.

Change in Land use / Land cover

Land use and land cover changes in Jamwa Ramgarh (1996 and 2005-06)

Groundwater Trends & Augmentation

There is increase use of ground water utilization in the areas which is catchment of Ramgarh Dam. This is leading to increase in water draft than the net availability.

Rainfall Trend – Amber

Rainfall Trend – Jamwa Ramgarh

Need for the Scientific Assessment
• The variation can be observed in the two examples of the block Amber and Jamwa Ramgarh
• The rise of rainfall in amber and corresponding fall of ground water level in the block indicating the severity of depletion in the block.
• Similarly the Jamwa Ramgarh is seen with fluctuating trend since it is nearest to dam showing the effect
• Need for Water Balance study in the Catchment Area of Ramgarh Lake
• Use of GIS and Remote Sensing for Impact Analysis.
• Prioritizing the work according to Hydrological Response parameters of sub-basins within Catchment
• There is need for the immediate assessment of the all the catchment contributing to Ramgarh Dam, in terms of Geomorphological characteristic of basin, rainfall and factor affecting the drastic variability. e.g., Increase in agriculture, Industry water, Mining, Encroachments etc., Assessment Basin-wise in order to analyze the severity of Basin Priority treatments for revival of the Ramgarh dam.

Restoration – possible efforts

• As a first step, the removal of all vegetation and SEDIMENTATION within the area of the Lake to achieve the original depth of the Ramgarh lake. This effort will make the basic lake take its original form and this is likely to help filling the lake both by the direct rain fall as well as by the under the ground surface streams. (See PART I)
• Thereafter, Clearing all the encroachment and illegal construction obstructing the flow of stream. All activities in the catchment area of the lake being done by different agencies/departments/individuals must be immediately stopped or strictly monitored.
• Banning mining activity completely, and all the hills should be brought under green zone and steps should be taken for ecological restoration of mining area which is already destroyed.
• The concerned departments must be asked to modify their structures and to remove obstructions from local nallah, drain etc. which are responsible for impending flow into main river course.
• Water bodies having high structures can be gated and water bodies of low height can be modified by constructing spillway/overflow structures in such a way that the water column retained in any water-body may be restricted to 0.75 m only which will serve the purpose of local needs and surplus water will be allowed into main reservoir.
• Modern agriculture management techniques have to be adopted and optimum utilization of the water resource and banning all higher water requirement crops

RAM GARH LAKE – The Sad Story

Exhausting a renewable resource  

PART – 1

Ramgarh Lake is situated about 30 km away from Jaipur city at Jamwa Ramgarh. The dam was commissioned by the Maharaja of Jaipur Sawai Madho Singh II and was completed in 1903.

It was developed as a multi-purpose project aiming to provide the irrigation facilities to nearby area and the water supply for Jaipur city. It started supplying water to the city in 1931.

In 1961, it was reserved only for water supply to Jaipur city and till year 2000, the lake had been a source of water for the Pink City.

The dam was constructed on Banganga River near Jaipur in 1903 having a catchment area of about 769.20 sq. km. spread over four Tehsils and capacity of 75.0 MCM

The Ramgarh Lake is a man-made water body covering an area of 15.5 sq. km. During monsoon, the lake once presented the most alluring scenic beauty for visitors. It was an interesting place for bird watchers as they got to see flocks of birds including migratory birds around this artificial lake.

The thick forest near Ramgarh Lake was home to many wildlife species such as Neelgai, Chital and lions and was once a hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur. Ramgarh was pronounced a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1982, by the Government of India.

Ramgarh Lake became famous during the 1982 Asian Games when the clean and beautiful waters of this lake were the host for the rowing competitions.

In the present time, the four rivers, Roda, Banganga, Tala and Madhoveni, which used to bring water to the lake, have gone dry due to the deforestation and mining activity carried out in the catchment area.  The dam which was once the home of reptiles and other aquatic wild life is dry since 2006, leaving no food like little fish to feed on and has resulted in disappearance of all aquatic life.

ramgarh-lake-destroyed
Ramgarh Lake in 1997 and in 2018

We shall discuss the factors responsible for drying of Ramgarh dam and about the possibility of restoration this lake in part 2 of this blog.

At the moment we are picking up one very specific aspect of Dam management in relation to Ramgarh lake i.e. RESERVOIR SEDIMENTATION, especially because this is a man made reservoir and such dams and reservoirs are made to ensure availability of water & energy and to reduce risk of flood.

The questions which arise are:

1. Whether Ramgarh lake was designed to be renewable or exhaustible resources?

2. Whether Ramgarh lake was maintained and operated as a renewable or exhaustible resource?

There is an engineering thought process where the structure is designed to have a certain life span, which could range from 10 years to 100 years. In such dam or reservoir design it was only targeted to remain operational till its desired life/age and there after it was nobody’s concern if it did not remain a reservoir at all due to continued sedimentation.

Was such the thought behind the designing of Ramgarh Lake?

Interestingly, life cycle approach is in conflict with the sustainable development goals which were aimed at creating assets which could be used by generations to come hence this concept would not have been followed while designing Ramgarh lake.

Most projects like construction of tankas, step wells, or dams or reservoirs undertaken by the Kings/rulers of ancient India were sustainably developed and cared as a renewable resource so that it could satisfy the need of the current as well as future generations.

The then king of Jaipur would not have wanted or allowed the reservoir to fill with sediment, meaning hereby that he must not have thought of Ramgarh Lake to be an exhaustible resource. However, it became an exhaustible resource because those who were entrusted to look after the lake did not care to implement reservoir sedimentation management approach to save the storage space or reduce the storage loss due to sedimentation.

We wish that those responsible for maintaining Ramgarh dam had maintained the storage volume till eternity. This would have benefited both present and future generations and would have prevented a renewable resource from becoming an exhaustible resource.

In India we make fresh ponds, lakes and reservoirs somewhere or the other everyday to increase the water holding capacity of these structures but tend to neglect the fact that in the absence of our attention the existing structures are becoming shallower due to deposit of sediment and one should not be surprised if serious analysis indicates that despite of building of new structures each year, the total holding capacity of all structures combined together is reducing each year.

Interestingly the average global storage loss due to reservoir sedimentation is estimated to be on the order of 0.8% to 1% per year globally. The reservoir benefits are lost if the reservoir is allowed to get filled with sediment and thereafter it becomes very difficult to restore the reservoir.

In our opinion when designing/operating a dam or a pond or a reservoir for the purpose of maintaining water storage keeping the aspect of sedimentation management in mind will make the reservoir a renewable resource.

There are more than a dozen methods which can be adopted to Manage/reduce Reservoir Sedimentation. It will be interesting to note that SILVERON while constructing two small ponds at Dhundhariya and Bighana for SABMiller India, still took care to  design an extremely simple structure in the flow path of rain water to reduce the quantity of sediments entering the pond.

SedimentationChamberAndPond
Sedimentation Chamber                                            Water flows through openings into the pond

During monsoon the rain water flows in from higher level and falls in the sedimentation chamber and settles in the pit while water with less sediments flows through the openings down a stone pitched ramp into the pond.

To be continued …

Silveron’s Exceptional Approach Towards Rain Water Harvesting

Rain water harvesting is an interesting field for people who have passion for water, who are inquisitive, who have imagination, who are keen observers, who like to learn, who love experimentation, who are not afraid of failure, who have perseverance and who have innovative minds.

Rain water harvesting is different from other disciplines of science and engineering because it is not a standard formula based subject. Every factor involved is a variable, like for example the rain fall quantum, its intensity and days are unpredictable while an important factor like soil formation is variable from location to location.

Interestingly, we at Silveron have come across situations where the results of the same rain water harvesting efforts differ astonishingly at different locations even though all factors and conditions seem identical at both locations. This is what makes rain water harvesting so challenging.

At Silveron, we value the wisdom of the old residents of any village where we plan to work and to begin with our experienced team interacts with the village elders and tries to evaluate what the situation was like in that area, may be a decade ago and what the situation is in the present time and their opinion about the factors which have resulted in the difference.

Team Silveron, thereafter uses regular tools and data to draw their own inferences but at no stage ever we ignore the experience and wisdom of the local village elders. There have been occasions where we ignored the instrumental data & inferences and in favor of  the observations and advise of the local elders and we never had reason to regret.

Study of the strata deep below
Study of the strata deep below

Like every child is different for the parents, every shaft is different for us. Even today, every Silveron recharge shaft constructed is treated as the first shaft. Every aspect is examined including intake capacity and speed. Nothing is taken for granted on the basis of our years of experience in the field of water conservation.

Test and Trial of Shaft
Test and Trial of Shaft

Where ever possible, especially where the roof top water is diverted through pipe towards the recharge shaft, Silveron places meter in the flow path of water to measure the quantum of water actually recharged by the structure during the monsoon/year.

Field trials for Rainwater Harvesting Systems
Field trials for Rainwater Harvesting Systems

Very often team Silveron can be seen conducting field trials in order to create rain water harvesting designs which are easy to built and maintain while being of top grade in performance and cost effective so that the rain water ‘harvesting movement’ can be sped up with the participation of more and more people and our planet be saved from water starvation.

Rain Water Harvesting – The Ultimate Charity

In India, there is an unending list of activities being undertaken by business houses and industries towards the fulfillment of their social responsibility while every individual also keeps doing some act of charity on his own.

There is no argument on the fact that water is one of the most essential natural resource needed by all living beings on earth. There is no denying of the fact that ground water levels are fast declining.

Water scarce land
Water scarce land

Rain water harvesting if done properly, is the most sustainable long lasting and beneficial act which can be done for the society at large.

We at SILVERON consider rain water harvesting as the ultimate Corporate Social Responsibility and charity which any individuals as well as corporates can do. In rain water harvesting, the harvester does not know who shall be the beneficiary and the beneficiaries do not know whose action has benefited them. This is why we consider Rainwater Harvesting as the ultimate charity.

We wish that all individuals and industries commit to make more rain water harvesting structures each year. These will add on to the already existing structures and hence each year the quantum of water recharged will keep increasing and a time will come when the recharge quantum will match the water withdrawal quantum and this will lead to the arrest of the decline in ground water table. The subsequent year may see improvement in ground water levels and increased quantum of available water.

The water situation in India has already reached an alarming level and we are already late for taking remedial action. It high time the Government spell out loudly to the people about the crisis and how it plans to deal with it. There is no time to play hide and seek on this subject and those in authority must stop trying short term remedies to manage the water crisis by transporting water from one location to the other. We have seen enough of water trains on the rail tracks and water tankers on the roads.

The water policy has to be re-looked into and redesigned. Who takes responsibility for water crisis – State or Central Government? Who takes responsibility for remedial planning? Who takes exclusive responsibility of formulating rules and ensuring monitoring of implementation?

Existing policies like, in a notified area the government will not give permission to anybody to dig a fresh tube well irrespective of all the Rainwater Harvesting efforts and structures he makes in that area while those who already have old operative running tube wells are permitted to continue to draw water even if they have done no effort to harvest rain water.

What difference will it make on the load on ground water if one person who can withdraw water starts selling water to the person who does not have permission to withdraw water?

With this regulation in place, who will make rain water harvesting efforts in notified area? Who will deposit money in that bank from which withdrawal is not permitted? This policy will surely squeeze every notified area dry and make it uninhabitable and lead to exodus of residents. The shifting population will generate additional load on the ground water resource of that area where they go.

Ultimately, will the situation drive us back to the same river banks from where our early civilization started?

Sincere Rainwater Harvesting effort is the only solution in hand which can help reverse the ground water shortage and declining water table issue. It is the need of the hour that all stake holders act immediately and that too on a large scale.

It is time for the government to motivate people and industries to go for rain water harvesting projects by giving them subsidy and tax exemption for all rain water harvesting works they do.

Water Wisdom – Step well (Bawari)

Hundreds of years ago, the only way to travel was on foot or ride on animal back or animal drawn carts. Traveling from one place to another would be taking days or weeks or may be months hence the step well (Bawari) became an important landmark site for the traveler since it had water as well as rooms/corridors to cook food and rest during the night.

Centuries ago the ground water extraction was only from open wells manually or with help of animals. Even the quantity of water withdrawal was much less than the natural recharge of rain water hence the water table was high and water was available just a few feet below the ground. In such circumstances if a big diameter well was dug to even a depth of 30 to 50 ft, it naturally got filled with water, thereafter steps were constructed from ground level till the depth of the well so that the traveler could walk down till the water level and draw water. Corridors and rooms were constructed around the water body as resting space for the travelers.

Every step well also had an open well connected to it and naturally the water level in the open well was the same as that in the step well and those travelers who had bucket etc. could draw water from the well too and even farming was done using water from these open wells.

Constructing a step well was considered a great act of charity hence step wells were constructed in large numbers not only by the ruling king as a social benefit project but also by rich traders from share of their business profits.

We observed that some step wells were ground water level dependent and were dug in alluvium and their base was permeable. Such water bodies had visible water till the ground water level was higher than the depth of the step well but as the water table declined below the base level of the step well these step wells became dry and devoid of water, as they  stand today.

Some step wells were dug only till a level where natural hard rock was encountered hence these step wells have uneven hard rock non permeable base.  SaraI Bawari and Kale Hanuman ki Bawari are two such historical 15th century Step wells (Bawari) at Amber, Jaipur. Restored & rejuvenated by SILVERON from 2005 and thereafter and it will be interesting to note that both these step wells hold good quantity of water even today.

To be able to do any restoration and rejuvenation work, team Silveron had to empty the water from the step well. This task was difficult since there was regular inflow of water and streams of water could be seen gushing in from the side walls at various levels from 5 to 40 ft. below the ground surface. Multiple dewatering engines were deployed day and night during the entire work to keep the water level low in order to be able to work.

These step wells are surrounded by multiple rocky hills and rain water which collects in large pockets at higher levels forms minute channels just under the surface of the ground at various levels and flows towards the step well.

As the step well fills with water, the collected water in the step well tries to go back from the same inlet points and this works as a plug to stop the in-flowing water, hence Bawari does not over flow and when water is withdrawn the same quantity is replenished.

Sarai Bawari - Restoration work in progress.
Sarai Bawari – Restoration work in progress.

kalehanumanji-bawari-restoration
Kale Hanuman Ji ki Bawari – Restoration work in progress.

Though the current times of fast pace travel and water supply pumped directly into the home may have made the Bawari (step well) irrelevant but they will always remain a heritage site and will continue to speaks volumes about the wisdom and caliber of our ancestors.

 

restored-bawaris
Restored 15th Century Stepwells – Sarai Bawari & Kale Hanuman Ji ki Bawari