Thoughtless development in and around Delhi is fast throttling small water bodies with no sign of their revival by the authorities concerned
Kishangarh is located off Aruna Asif Ali Marg, opposite Vasant Kunj in New Delhi; factually speaking, Aruna Asif Ali Marg and Vasant Kunj are recent arrivals in the neighbourhood of Kishangarh. The village appears to be a fairly old settlement, traces of old buildings, though, are difficult to find because of a large number of relatively newer constructions.
There is however a temple here, located on Gaushala Marg and popularly known as Baba Laturia Mandir. The temple and its location next to the village pond would suggest that both have been around for a while. The practice of building places of worship next to water bodies is no longer in vogue and the reason is easy to fathom — we have managed to kill most water bodies and there is no money to revive them, though there seems to be no shortage of funds when it comes to building all kinds of places of worship, especially on encroached land.
The pond, now drier than the Thar Desert, used to have water till 1980. Earlier during the monsoons, the water threatened to spill over with only the last step of the ghat's flight of stairs managing to stay afloat. The pond now gets only a few inches of water during the monsoons but barely 32 years ago, the entire village's cattle came here to slake their thirst and men of all ages spent most of their summer diving in the almost 10-feet-deep waters.
With buildings coming up all around it, the pond is now dry. Rainwater that used to gush in from all sides to fill up this natural depression, that had steps built on its east and south banks, is now cut-off from all sides, with no inlet for rainwater anymore.
Barely half a kilometre to the south of the Baba Laturia temple, there is a Delhi Development Authority park with a fair-sized lake. To the south-east of the lake, the land rises to rocky outcroppings and rainwater runs down the slope to keep this lake filled with water; some other run-off from the direction of Mehrauli also probably finds its way into the lake that has a thriving and well-fed population of large-sized catfish, popularly known as singhara. If this largish lake that appears to be rain-fed, can survive and be a comfortable sight for sore eyes in this blistering heat, why can't Kishangarh's dry pond be revived? Just open a couple of channels that carried water to the pond and it will thrive again.
Come out of Kishangarh on to Aruna Asif ali Marg and turn right to go towards Ber Sarai. A little distance away, just outside the protected forest, there is another extremely picturesque lake known as the Neela Hauz. The Hauz was almost killed for the widening the road into four-lanes in the run up to the Commonwealth Games. The residents of Vasant Kunj, in an initiative taken by FORCE (Forum for Organised Resources Conservation and Enhancement), had subsequently approached the court and an assurance was given, later repeated by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, that the Hauz would be restored to its original glory and a bio- diversity park will also be set up near it.
Though October 14 will mark two years since the conclusion of the games, there are still no signs of revival and restoration on the Neela Hauz even as the entire water body is being chocked by water hyacinth.
Within a distance of half a kilometre from each other, there are three water bodies — two bone-dry, one thriving. While the one that thrives shows the correct course of action, there is hardly any attempt visible to follow the path to revive the other two. It is the same story all over and this in a city that is locked in a tussle with both Uttar Pradesh and Haryana — demanding supply of water to meet its shortage in most city areas.
Keywords: Delhi development drive