GANGA AND JAL
[ Some possibly-useful information for
the Hon. Minister for Water Resources ]
A news item in Times of India, Mumbai edition, dated 25th June 2016 was about river Ganga ( Ganges). The Title was – ‘Dams will doom Ganga’. The text tells us that Hon. Ms. Uma Bharati ji , the then Minister of Water Resources ( Or, the officers in the Ministry , on her behalf ) informed the Hon. Supreme Court that, building dams on rivers Alaknanada, Bhagirathi and Mandakini, for Hydroelectric Projects, will prove to be detrimental for river Ganga, and it will also adversely affect the river’s course ; and obviously, it will also be bad for the Ecology.
There is nothing basically wrong with this statement. ( But, of course, the other side of the coin is that, the nation does need Hydroelectric power ).
Let us discuss this issue. While doing so, let us keep aside facets like Economics, Social impact, power-generation etc., and concentrate primarily on the aspect of ‘Water’ . Let us see if we can come up with some useful information.
For going into the Ganga matter, we can look at river Saraswati for guidance.
- River Saraswati :
We know that in ancient times Saraswati was a mighty river, which was 8-12 km. wide at some places. The Rig Veda addresses Saraswati as Naditame (नदीतमे) , i.e., ‘O Greatest River’. The ancient Sindhu-Saraswati Civilization ( Harappan / Indus Civilization) sprang up on & around the shores of Saraswati. But, there came a time when this mighty river started drying up, and eventually at around 1900-1500 BCE (Before the Common Era), it dried up completely.
We also know that in the present age, ( due to Global Warming ), glaciers are constantly diminishing in size because of melting of ice. Therefore, there is a danger to the very existence of rivers like Ganga which spring up from Himalayan glaciers . One glacier can feed a mighty river like Ganga for about 10,000 years. Do we know as to, out of these, how many millennia have already passed? So, some day in distant future, Ganga is going to dry up. That drying-up action would get hastened due to global-warming & drying up of glaciers, even though that drying-up may not take place in the life-time of the present generation. But what about our future-generations ?
Our Puranas tell us that after a super-human effort, Bhagirath brought Ganga down from Heaven ( i.e. heaven-like Himalayan region) to the Earth ( i.e. down to the North-Indian-plains). Now, it is our duty to ensure that the Ganga-basin will continue to get adequate supply of water, so much so that Ganga will not dry-up in the foreseeable-future ; and more than that, the Ganga-basin zone would continue to get sufficient water, from whatever source.
- Something more about Saraswati :
In his book on River Saraswati ( titled, ‘The River Saraswati : Legend, Myth and Reality’ ), Dr. S. Kalyanraman, a person of high repute, furnishes us important information.
Kalyanraman tells that the Sindhu-Saraswati region is a huge homogeneous-aquifer, just like a giant sponge. Even though river Saraswati dried up 3500-3900 years BP (Before Present), yet, even today, water is found if we dig deep in the river’s bed. The Jaisalmer region of Rajasthan is one comprising a dry desert. But if a bore-well is dug in this region, the well gets 24×7 water. Radio-Carbon Dating has shown that this Groundwater is from the period 2940-2400 BCE ( i.e., about 4400-5000 years BP). This water is ‘flowing-water’ ( i.e. not stagnant), and its Rate of Flow has also been measured. The fact that this water is flowing-water means that even today it has contact with the region covering its Himalayan-origin.
Kalyanraman further informs us that, the ‘Tritium (Hydrogen Isotope) Analysis’ carried out by BARC, has shown that, the period of this underground-water / deep-water / aquifier is 5400-400 years BCE. The researchers from BARC have also shown that the water from Rajasthan aquifers is in fact Himalayan water, and its origin is about 6000 BCE.
Even though different researches give us somewhat different time-periods for this water, the fact remains that the period of the origin of this ground-water is very ancient.
Now see this piece of news : ( Ref. TOI, Mumbai edition dated 26 April, 2016) –
It tells us that farmers in Rajasthan’s Thar Desert region are getting 24×7 water in full force from their bore-wells ; and that the water is gushing out with such force that it is difficult to stop it. The newspaper concludes that perhaps River Saraswati is emerging once again !
It ought to be noted that the same situation exists in Pakistan’s desert-region close to Jaisalmer. There too the boar-wells give out water 24×7.
- Example from USA :
The Southern & Western regions in USA have a giant underground-lake ( as big as a small sea in Europe). It is spread below several US states, and the water from this lake is pumped up for use.
This example basically supports the fact that in Rajasthan & in some regions of northern India, there is a huge underground ‘river’.
- Ganga-Basin :
We will now apply to Ganga, the information discussed so far.
As we travel Eastwards, we find that several rivers meet & join-up with Ganga, like Yamuna (Jamuna) , ‘Son’ (सोन) and others. This means that the water in Ganga goes on increasing as it flows towards East. This in turn means that the question of quantum of water in Ganga basically is important for the region between the Himalayan range & Allahabad (Prayag).
Eminent archeologist Dhavalikar says that all exploration in the region from Dehradun to Allahabad has to be carried out in mud. He also mentions that in this region, there are several small lakes. From all this, he theorizes that all this shows the ancient ‘Maha-Pralay’ ( i.e. a Super-giant Flood) often mentioned in Indian tradition ; and that the water from this Pralay has seeped deep into the ground and has remained there. Be that as it may, as one of the alternatives, it has to be remembered that Ganga has changed its course several times, and that too could have led to the condition mentioned above.
The author of the present monograph feels is that, in very-ancient period this region could have had a river, which has ‘diappeared’ & gone underground, like the river Saraswati.
We have to remember that in the past millennia several events have taken place due to rubbing of the Indian Plate against the Asian Plate. ( Refer Tectonic Theory). As far as Saraswati is concerned, this tectonic event caused several rivers to change their course. Sutlej & Jamuna , which were originally tributaries of Saraswati, changed their course ; Sutlej became a tributary of river Indus (Sindhu) , while Jamuna became a tributary of Ganga. River ‘Tons’ (तोंस) started flowing into Jamuna. River Drishdvati, which was linking 2 large rivers, totally disappeared. Can we say with any certainty that such immense changes of gigantic proportions were restricted to Saraswati & its tributaries only, and that this tectonic event (or some earlier one) did not affect the nearby Ganga-basin region ?
[ After all, Saraswati itself was not so much ‘mighty’ ( or, probably not in existance) at the time of 7000 / 8000 BCE. So there is every likelihood of an earlier tectonic event. After all, as per the Indian tradition, the period of ‘Pralay’ is very old, several millennia BCE —- it is certainly not around 2000 BCE, i.e., not when the tectonic events leading to the eventual disappearance of Saraswati took place .(Some books from the present era too mention about such a tectonic event of an earlier period) ] .
Or, another possibility is that, instead of an underground river, the tectonic event mentioned above might have created an underground ‘Lake’, in the Ganga-basin.
All this means that the water from Himalayan region may not be just flowing though over-the-ground rivers ; but may have also given rise to a flowing-underground-river or a steady-underground-‘giant_lake’ .
- Ground-Water : In Saraswati basin :
Kalyanraman says that, the desert-region west of Jaisalmer contains reserve of 3000 million cubic meters of Ground-water ( i.e. water-below-Ground). This water can surely made use of fruitfully. Dr. K. R. Srinivasan , former Director of the Central Ground-Water Board, tells in one of his articles that, just the region of ‘Central-Saraswati-Basin’ in Rajasthan has the capacity to supply 10 LAKH Tube-wells water on 24×7 basis.
Kalyanraman also mentions that, in the region of Indus (River Sindhu) and its tributaries, the Ground-water-reservoir is 10 TIMES as compared to the total water that flows out of these rivers.
- Back to the Ganga-Basin :
This monograph primarily started with the problem related to possibility of future water-shortage in the Ganga-basin. So let us turn to that once again.
Just as the Jaisalmer region contains huge enormous amount of ancient water deep below the ground, and just as the Punjab region in Pakistan contains huge vast quantities of ground-water ; there could be similar possibility in the Ganga-basin. If an underground ‘Lake’ or an underground ‘River’ is found in the Ganga-basin, that region would have more than enough water for use ; and then there would be nothing to worry about shortage of water due to dams.
- Some concluding comments :
- The author tried to view photos taken by the Remote Sensing Agency. But both, in books, as well as on-line, the photos are of the present Ghaggar-Hakra region ( i.e., the ancient-Saraswati region ) . That is quite understandable. But, one does not know as to whether the Remote Sensing Agency has carried out a similar exercise for the Ganga basin. If not so done, it should be considered by the Agency.
- The Geological Survey Dept, The Archeological Survey Dept., the Water Research Commission too might have conducted some research in Ganga- basin. If not so done, then a coordinated exercise could be taken up.
- The on-line information given by the shows that in the UP-region, number of bore-wells as well as exploratory-wells have been dug. While this will undoubtedly increase the water-availability, the author feels that the information gathered from these wells will help in finding out more about the ground-water activity in the Ganga-region ( & also in finding out about the possibility of an underground river or lake in that region, just like what is happening in the Saraswati basin).
If such an exercise has not been already taken up, it should now be started.
- Jamuna joins Ganga at Allahabad. In case water is needed in the Ganga-bed itself in a much-further-northern-region , then we should remember the ancient Drishdwati , which joined two big rivers. So, just like Drishadwati, now a canal can be dug to join Jamuna & Ganga much-further-north , e.g. say, in the Delhi/Bagpat-Hastinapur-Rohilkhand belt. If such an exercise has not been considereded so far, then a study could be taken up now, for going into the feasibility & impact.
- While the experts & technocrats would certainly do their part of this important activity once a decision is taken ; yet, it need not be stressed that, personal attention from the Hon. Mister would play a very significant role in expediting this very important project.
- Now in 2018, Hon. Shri Nitin Gadkari ji is the Minister for ‘Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvination’ . It is certain that his initiative will go a long way towards finding a unique solution to this important issue.
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[ Note – (Feb. 2018) – This is a ‘free-translation’ of the author’s own Marathi Article of 2016, which was uploaded on his own website & also on another website)
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- Subhash S. Naik सुभाष स. नाईक
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