Finding An Extinct River: As Rajasthan pushes Saraswati plan, water marks all along course

As the unrelenting sun bakes the yellow desert in Ranau village of Jaisalmer, roughly 60 km from the Indo-Pakistan border, a group of boys sits in the shade of a mud hut, playing cards. They are no strangers to the harsh summer heat, but unlike those from a similar barren terrain in neighbouring Barmer, Ranau has never known water scarcity. Girls and women from the 80-odd houses in the village have to just go down a sand dune to a tubewell that oozes ‘meetha paani’ throughout the year. The boys, around 15, recall how some scientists came to the village about 15 years ago and dug wells, changing life for their mothers. “I wasn’t born then but I have heard some scientists found the extinct river Saraswati here. The elders say the river continues to flow underneath this village,” says Mahendra Singh, a Class IX student.

The Rajasthan government is set to implement ‘Project Saraswati’, which proposes sub-surface drilling in the districts of Jaisalmer, Barmer, Hanumangarh, Ganganagar and Bikaner, to find the extinct river. The plan, that will cost Rs 69 crore, has been sent to the Centre for funding along with a detailed project report. The government at Centre has also shown interest in tracing the mythical river. Ever since satellite images of western Rajasthan threw up what was suspected to be the buried channel of the Saraswati, the state’s Public Health and Education Department, has been digging up tubewells on the course, such as in Ranau. Each time, it has hit jackpot. Ghantiyali and Tanot villages, each approximately 20 km apart from Ranau, on a straight line headed towards the border, too have tubewells that never run dry. Anoop Singh is the ‘pump wala’ at a tubewell between Ghantiyali and Tanot. He says the tubewell was installed in 2001. “I remember. They dug over 100 feet and found water gushing up to the surface. This water is not saline like they find in most other parts of Jaisalmer. It is directly from the river Saraswati that once ran on the surface but is now buried,” he says. Explaining the government plans, Vimal Soni, a senior hydrologist in the state’s Ground Water Department (Research, Design and Development), said, “Apart from the sub-surface core drilling, we have also proposed ground-penetrating radar survey to determine the course of the 543-km-long river and to plot its pseudo image from start to end.” A study initiated in the 1990s had concluded that Saraswati originated from Bandarpunch, or Har-ki-dun, a glacier in the Garhwal Himalayas, and finally discharged into the Gulf of Khambat on the Gujarat coast. Today, the Saraswati is represented by the Ghaggar river that flows on its palaeochannel in Haryana, according to ISRO. Carbon dating of the water of around 14 wells dug near it had determined it to be 8,000-14,000 years old. A recent ISRO study noted that the water quality “is quite good for most of the drilled wells, as compared to tube wells / dug wells away from the channel”, and that vegetation remained good here even during extreme summers. “ Despite being intensively used for 35-40 years there is no indication of any decline in the discharge of tube wells or of the lowering of water table. The wells in the vicinity do not dry up throughout the year.”

Girls and women from the 80-odd houses in the village have to just go down a sand dune to a tubewell that oozes ‘meetha paani’ throughout the year.

As the unrelenting sun bakes the yellow desert in Ranau village of Jaisalmer, roughly 60 km from the Indo-Pakistan border, a group of boys sits in the shade of a mud hut, playing cards. They are no strangers to the harsh summer heat, but unlike those from a similar barren terrain in neighbouring Barmer, Ranau has never known water scarcity. Girls and women from the 80-odd houses in the village have to just go down a sand dune to a tubewell that oozes ‘meetha paani’ throughout the year. The boys, around 15, recall how some scientists came to the village about 15 years ago and dug wells, changing life for their mothers. “I wasn’t born then but I have heard some scientists found the extinct river Saraswati here. The elders say the river continues to flow underneath this village,” says Mahendra Singh, a Class IX student.

The Rajasthan government is set to implement ‘Project Saraswati’, which proposes sub-surface drilling in the districts of Jaisalmer, Barmer, Hanumangarh, Ganganagar and Bikaner, to find the extinct river. The plan, that will cost Rs 69 crore, has been sent to the Centre for funding along with a detailed project report. The government at Centre has also shown interest in tracing the mythical river. Ever since satellite images of western Rajasthan threw up what was suspected to be the buried channel of the Saraswati, the state’s Public Health and Education Department, has been digging up tubewells on the course, such as in Ranau. Each time, it has hit jackpot. Ghantiyali and Tanot villages, each approximately 20 km apart from Ranau, on a straight line headed towards the border, too have tubewells that never run dry. Anoop Singh is the ‘pump wala’ at a tubewell between Ghantiyali and Tanot. He says the tubewell was installed in 2001. “I remember. They dug over 100 feet and found water gushing up to the surface. This water is not saline like they find in most other parts of Jaisalmer. It is directly from the river Saraswati that once ran on the surface but is now buried,” he says. Explaining the government plans, Vimal Soni, a senior hydrologist in the state’s Ground Water Department (Research, Design and Development), said, “Apart from the sub-surface core drilling, we have also proposed ground-penetrating radar survey to determine the course of the 543-km-long river and to plot its pseudo image from start to end.” A study initiated in the 1990s had concluded that Saraswati originated from Bandarpunch, or Har-ki-dun, a glacier in the Garhwal Himalayas, and finally discharged into the Gulf of Khambat on the Gujarat coast. Today, the Saraswati is represented by the Ghaggar river that flows on its palaeochannel in Haryana, according to ISRO. Carbon dating of the water of around 14 wells dug near it had determined it to be 8,000-14,000 years old. A recent ISRO study noted that the water quality “is quite good for most of the drilled wells, as compared to tube wells / dug wells away from the channel”, and that vegetation remained good here even during extreme summers. “ Despite being intensively used for 35-40 years there is no indication of any decline in the discharge of tube wells or of the lowering of water table. The wells in the vicinity do not dry up throughout the year.”

Girls and women from the 80-odd houses in the village have to just go down a sand dune to a tubewell that oozes ‘meetha paani’ throughout the year.

July 20, 2015 3:47 am

As the unrelenting sun bakes the yellow desert in Ranau village of Jaisalmer, roughly 60 km from the Indo-Pakistan border, a group of boys sits in the shade of a mud hut, playing cards. They are no strangers to the harsh summer heat, but unlike those from a similar barren terrain in neighbouring Barmer, Ranau has never known water scarcity. Girls and women from the 80-odd houses in the village have to just go down a sand dune to a tubewell that oozes ‘meetha paani’ throughout the year. The boys, around 15, recall how some scientists came to the village about 15 years ago and dug wells, changing life for their mothers. “I wasn’t born then but I have heard some scientists found the extinct river Saraswati here. The elders say the river continues to flow underneath this village,” says Mahendra Singh, a Class IX student.

The Rajasthan government is set to implement ‘Project Saraswati’, which proposes sub-surface drilling in the districts of Jaisalmer, Barmer, Hanumangarh, Ganganagar and Bikaner, to find the extinct river. The plan, that will cost Rs 69 crore, has been sent to the Centre for funding along with a detailed project report. The government at Centre has also shown interest in tracing the mythical river. Ever since satellite images of western Rajasthan threw up what was suspected to be the buried channel of the Saraswati, the state’s Public Health and Education Department, has been digging up tubewells on the course, such as in Ranau. Each time, it has hit jackpot. Ghantiyali and Tanot villages, each approximately 20 km apart from Ranau, on a straight line headed towards the border, too have tubewells that never run dry. Anoop Singh is the ‘pump wala’ at a tubewell between Ghantiyali and Tanot. He says the tubewell was installed in 2001. “I remember. They dug over 100 feet and found water gushing up to the surface. This water is not saline like they find in most other parts of Jaisalmer. It is directly from the river Saraswati that once ran on the surface but is now buried,” he says. Explaining the government plans, Vimal Soni, a senior hydrologist in the state’s Ground Water Department (Research, Design and Development), said, “Apart from the sub-surface core drilling, we have also proposed ground-penetrating radar survey to determine the course of the 543-km-long river and to plot its pseudo image from start to end.” A study initiated in the 1990s had concluded that Saraswati originated from Bandarpunch, or Har-ki-dun, a glacier in the Garhwal Himalayas, and finally discharged into the Gulf of Khambat on the Gujarat coast. Today, the Saraswati is represented by the Ghaggar river that flows on its palaeochannel in Haryana, according to ISRO. Carbon dating of the water of around 14 wells dug near it had determined it to be 8,000-14,000 years old. A recent ISRO study noted that the water quality “is quite good for most of the drilled wells, as compared to tube wells / dug wells away from the channel”, and that vegetation remained good here even during extreme summers. “ Despite being intensively used for 35-40 years there is no indication of any decline in the discharge of tube wells or of the lowering of water table. The wells in the vicinity do not dry up throughout the year.”

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/finding-an-extinct-river-as-rajasthan-pushes-saraswati-plan-water-marks-all-along-course/

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