PUCL Bulletin, June 2003

Copy of letter to the Chief Minister of Delhi
Bhageedar in the efforts to save Delhi' water table

-- By Mahant Tiwari, Convenor, Rashtriya Jal Biraadari, Delhi

Water problem is becoming more accused day by day in Delhi. We accept that the government will look for solutions to this problem through constructive development for the benefit for the people of Delhi. The citizenry should get water for its needs and at the same time over-exploitation and wastage of water should stop. We should aim to conserve and recharge our water resources otherwise the coming generations will have to suffer.
Village Chandrawal in north Delhi was the seat of power in the old times. This village had 18 wells, 5 ponds in the beginning of the 19th century. In the year 1903 the British acquired 187 acres from the Gurjar farmers of the area and Metcalf residence was constructed. During the first War of independence of 1857 the local residents, in order to avenge their disposition, burnt down the Metcalf residence.

Chandrawal can be called the first village to be disposed. During the British period this area underwent many changes. The rain water of the area flowed through large number of grazing lands, water bodies, groves went into Yamuna. Water flowing through the natural plantations was more or less filtered. With the passage of time the ever-increasing garbage, construction material filled the filtering, ponds, and plantations. The rain water today takes with it the modern filth of polythene, etc., in to the river.

River Yamuna originates in Uttaranchal. Flowing through Himachal and Punjab it passes through north Delhi and meets the Ganga at Allahabad. Delhi region had a number of villages covered with greenery. Chandrawal, Dhaka, Timarpur, Nagloi, Chhoti Nagloi, etc., have now almost disappeared. The walled city was established by the Mughals. Here also there were groves, canals, wells, and ponds. All these were means of water

Bazar Sitaram, Koochaa Ghazi Ram, Bulbuli Khaana, Matkaa Mahal, all had wells known for their water. Even today there is a well in front of the old Delhi railway station which is a source of water in that area. There is a Gullee Garhaiyyaa near the Jama Masjid. This area was inhabited by people concerned with water distribution. The Red Fort had its own Naher-e-Bahisht. Sharja Khan got a water body built in the centre of the market area which looked very beautiful at night because of the lights around it. This Sarowar for Jahanaara came to be known as Chandini Chowk. Water from this Sarowar was supplied to the groves around the area. The prominent among which were Roshanara Bagh, Gulabi Bagh, Tis Hazari Bagh, Kudasiya Bagh, etc. The British blocked all these water bodies and chopped 1000 trees of the Tis Hazari Bagh. Jahanaara and built a Sarai with two wells. The British renamed it as Company Bagh. Today it is known as Gandhi Ground.

Shiabuddin Khan is known to have carried out repairs on the old canals which went up to Jorbagh and Karol Bagh. Another canal was dug from the Yamuna which replenished the water of wells in old Delhi and raised the water level.

The end of the Mughal rule also spelt the end of the system of canals, wells, lakes, and ponds of different sizes. All the rural habitation in the areas of Sadar Bazar, Pul Bangash, Sabzi Mandi, Kamla Nagar, Delhi University, Kingsway, Azadpur, disappeared slowly. The water of Yamuna quenched the thirst of the people, fields and farms, groves and gardens, animals and birds and flowed back in to the womb of mother earth. The usage pattern of water today is different and wasteful. In the short span of 50 years river Yamuna has been converted into a filthy drain.

We want to be a Bhageedar in the efforts to save Delhi in real sense. We want to commit the Chief Minister to a policy of environmental equilibrium to save and replenish the water table of Delhi.

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