A historic crime

  • 30/10/1995

Hemmed in by concrete houses in South Delhi lies a large the ground, once called the Haul Khas tank. it . years ago, this historic tank supplied water throughout In 1398, when Amir Timur had conquered Delhi, his Shalfuddin Yazdl wrote, "it is so wide that an arrow car, shot from one end to the other."

Built by ruler Alauddin Khalil in 1295 for Delhi's second Sirl, the tank was originally known as Haud-i-Ala' Says 10 Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey M I (ASQ, "The tank is formed in a natural depression. Onain used to link it to the city of Sid, which is now called Shahp,m Today a road runs over this channel."

The tank's present guardians are the Delhi Develi)pr Authority's (DDA) Landscape Department, all muddlow whather the Haul Khas should be treated as a garden or toric tank. Forthe past 2 years 0 KJhingon, director, has Ing to revive it. Eight feet of water had collected there h, but It all vanished in a jiffy. Where did the water go?

"Delhi's water table is below aquifer levels" says A director, Environmental Planning, Delhi Sch K Mo 001 of Plan Architecture. 'Rapid urbanisation has interfered wit 40 recharging of aquifers. The Haul Khas tank will remain to Yet, historians insist that Delhi was never water starvoif ridge, an outcrop of the Aravalli range was used as it area, and the mnt Yamuna, con toving east, watered ty plains of Delhi an Intricate network I, dams tanks, wells lueducts. Anupam of the Gandhi Peace Ion, New Delhi, 360 historic ponds. and tanks cooled city, maintained Wnd water levels colted in water and pretend flood.

Aziz Ahmed, Professor, PuAbr Regional Planning I ment Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), says the Oxelop walater system once depended an royal patronage. With decline of the Mughals, the water system began to decline , q31 Mishro holds the introduction of new technology ad on water treatment plants connected with pipes and ..,".bsponsible for destroying the original system of rain westing and tapping the river. Ritu Priya, researcher at the 4:1101 Community Health and Social Medicine, JNU, also rnts the British paranoia with malaria for filling up old tanks.

Th post-independence deluge of refugees from West _Zii made housing a governmental nightmare. Colonies such as Lajpat Nagar and Malaviya Nagar sprang up rapidly. "The 1961 Delhi Master Plan marked out commercial, residential and educational areas," says Ritu Priya. Nobody thought about water supply or public health and environment. And in the '70s, the DDA began carving out the catchment area of the Haul Khas to colonies such as R K Puram and centres of learning like JNU.

All these areas are today water starved. The water regime of the city has com- pletely changed. Now, effluent$ of the city flow irvto the rival through these channels, rather than river water flowing into them. And as supplies from the Yamuna become increasingly inadequate, Delhi has to plead with neighbouring states for water or rely on expensive projects such as the Tehri Dam.

Haul Khas stands as the finest example of the ecological ignorance of agencies like the DDA, which have done their best to make a site like this pretty. But even in the monsoons, this hole-in-the-ground holds no water, because the watershed has been destroyed.

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