Latest UpdatesNature & EnvironmentA heritage lake yielding eco-system benefits in Jaipur : Man Sagar Lake

A heritage lake yielding eco-system benefits in Jaipur : Man Sagar Lake

A jewel in crown!

Man Sagar Lake, located towards the northern fringe of the Pink Pity of Jaipur, has witnessed everything in the last four centuries…Its boom, fall, rise and then neglect of everything. It was set up by Raja Man of Amer, a contemporary of emperor Akbar. Since then, the lake refuses to let down its significance and is yielding eco-system benefits despite administration’s neglect. A report…

According to wildlife conservationist Harsh Vardhan, “The Man Sagar Lake, few years back, had become a cesspool of sewer. Two open drains Brahmpuri Nalla and Nagtalai Nalla, merged raw sewer into it,” he says. Harsh coined the Bird Fair at this lake in 1997 to market lake-conservation through birding. It is in conjunction with the British Birdwatching Fair held at Rutland Water annually for past thirty years.  

On 20 May 2002, then Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot himself initiated the desilting program in the lake bed. He picked up a “fawda” (shovel) in his hand and started scratching the dry bed of this lake. Jaipur Development Authority’s  then Commissioner, GS Sandhu was the brain behind it. 

How the lake emerged as a new tourism hub

The lake then emerged as a new tourism hub as the Government set up a public-private project. An ecosystem-based approach was adopted by the new company headed by Nav Ratan Kothari, a jeweller, who turned out to be a heritage restoration magnet. He gave priority to lake restoration and Jal Mahal renovation and gave second fiddle to his hotel project at a nearby land to be initiated only after these twin social responsibilities were completed.

Through a planned approach and inviting overseas experts from Singapore and Germany, Kothari spent a huge amount. “I am born in Jaipur and I want to give back to its citizens a novel gift which they never envisioned. The heritage lake is restored and historic Jal Mahal is renovated beyond imagination,” he said with satisfaction, adding that “I did not a single rupee from the Government.”

Another challenge being battled by the lake

Man Sagar Lake battles another problem yet. The lake should receive a minimum 22 million liter water daily to remain full round the year. It receives about 50% of its need from monsoon. The rest used to be received from the sewer flow. By bypassing both open drains, sewer flow got diverted out of lake precincts. How to meet the shortage of water here? 

A new pipeline was drawn to connect the lake with the sewage treatment plant a kilo-meter away in the city. It is to receive seven million liter treated water daily which it is not receiving. So the Constructed Wetlands created near the lake platform are bereft of water. It is an innovative device to treat raw water through roots of shrubs and bushes and was set up by Kothari.

Fashioning Man Sagar Lake as mini-Keoladeo National Park

The lake is brimful  these days. Thanks to the monsoon water. Common Sandpipers, which breed in Russian arctic region, have already marked attendance, indicating an early migration having commenced. A Pallas Gull hovered over water while White-browed Wagtails picked up tiny insects on its surface. A few hundred Little Cormorants are pairing. Great Egret and Spotbilled Duck have completed breeding. A white Collared Dove was photographed at the lake edge this week, looked like a mutant, first record. Within weeks, migratory ducks and waders will touch down here. Many birders, called as twitchers, flock to this site to log in new species. 

Eight earthen mounds (islands) have been created within the lake where indigenous species of trees have been planted. It is to copy the Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, where heronries function only over trees standing over islands. Man Sagar can easily be fashioned out as a mini-KNPark provided small aspects are worked out, argues Harsh who has devoted a few decades in aquatic habitats’ restoration and learnt tactics abroad.

A heritage lake yielding eco-system benefits in Jaipur : Man Sagar Lake
A mutant Collared Dover at Man Sagar, photo by Harsh Vardhan

Earning benefits for people 

Man Sagar Lake, as a designed project, has started providing benefits to people at no cost, despite the fact that all agreed programmes are yet to be implemented at the site. The project is still wait listed for a formal opening. The government hopefully will visualise massive tourism and eco-system benefits out of it.

Business Models for Eco-Tourism

Nearly 400 lakes are in service in the state of Rajasthan, euphemistically called as semi arid. Fishing as a sport, bird watching, walking trails, cycling routes, camping in wilderness, village visits, etc are new ecosystem related business models worth attempting to enable the State attain top position in eco-tourism, suggests Anand Mishra, President of Tourism & Wildlife Society of India (TWSI), a non government platform working for past four decades. “

Who will bell the cat? The person, who wielded a shovel here twenty year ago, is back on Chief Minister’s seat (Ashok Gahlot).  The same promoter (Nav Ratan Kothari) stands there to this day, waiting for time to take a more positive turn…!

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