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Bindusagar stares at dry days
- Urban boom and silt shrink water level

Bhubaneswar, Sept. 30: Urbanisation has taken a toll on the ancient Bindusagar lake that draws thousands of devotees and pilgrims on religious occasions. The water level has shrunk, the silt load has increased and the natural channel feeding the lake has been encroached upon.

“In 1964, the water level in the lake was 16 feet. Now, it has gone down to five feet in most of the stretches. Only at a few places the water level may still be about 10 feet,” said Surya Narayan Das, a senior citizen from Old Town where the water body is located.

Even an engineer of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) said the water level of the 18.27-acre lake was now hardly five to seven feet.

Once a rich source of water for the people of the area, Bindusagar, according to legend, was created by Lord Shiv to quench the thirst of his wife, Parvati. Every summer, Lord Lingaraj, another name of Shiv, takes a boat ride in the lake.

Geologist and former vice-chancellor of Utkal University Satyananda Acharya said rapid urbanisation has created all the problems for the lake.

Mushrooming of settlements along natural drainage channel No. 7, which is supposed to feed the holy lake, has blocked proper flow of water into the lake.

The channel flows on the south of the lake, but upstream it is full of silt. Many areas have also been encroached upon because of unplanned housing activities. This is obstructing ground water recharge in the area.

Geologist Naba Kishore Mahalik blamed “mindless urbanisation” around the lake for preventing the flow of water into the lake to recharge it. Utkal University geography professor Gopal Krishna Panda said percolation of water would require enough soil layers around the lake, but the water body now has more concrete areas around it than soil.

“As a result, the soil is not able to retain rainwater and adequate recharge of the lake doesn’t happen,” he said.

However, what’s surprised many people is the lack of measures to remove the accumulated silt from the lake.

Municipal commissioner Sanjib Kumar Mishra admitted that unplanned urbanisation had hit the health of the ancient water body.

“Dredging is an option for increasing the water flow inside the lake. For that, we have already contacted authorities of the Chilika Development Authority, who have expertise in this. We will need nearly Rs 2.5 crore for dredging the lake,” he said.

Dredging would also help revive some of the lost streams that used to feed the lake. “The depth of the lake is likely to increase by 14 to 15 feet by January or February next year after dredging,” said Mishra.

Sources in the BMC said that for renovation of the lake, Rs 6.1 crore had been received from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and Rs 3.35 crore from the National River Conservation Directorate.

While the urban renewal mission fund was used to build a parikrama (laterite wall) around the lake, the directorate funds worth Rs 1 crore was to be used for cleaning it through bio-remediation, which brings oxygen level in the water to the desired level.

However, only a part of this fund could be utilised as the Mumbai-based contractor, who was entrusted with the job of bio-remediation, left midway.

The BMC engineers are also planning to source water to the lake from two streams — Ganga-Yamuna and Dimbiri Jhara — which are about 1km away. But, geologist Mahalik feels that linking the streams to the Bindusagar lake may not be an easy task.