AMID LAKES that stretch for kilometres are straggly desert trees and half-submerged pylons. Jaisalmer was known as the driest district in the subcontinent.
Now, after last week’s freak rainfall of 400 mm in 36 hours, there are about 20 lakes. Of these, about six lakes cover more than 10 sq km each, says district collector Krishna Kant Pathak. And they will not dry up soon. "Some lakes are more than 20-feet-deep and are formed on hard rocky beds, which means in normal circumstances it won't recharge the ground water," he says.
R.S. Mertia, director of Jaisalmer's Central Arid Zone Research Institute, explains the sudden lake formation, which the desert district has not seen in centuries: "Rainwater collected on top of enormous dunes met the gushing floodwater below, cutting the dunes into halves. The lakes were formed in between the dunes."
The lake at Gale Ki Basti, a village of 117 families, is at least 6-km-long, 3-km-wide, and is surrounded by sand dunes. The area's rocky sub-surface makes water absorption impossible.
These lakes, specially the bigger ones, are going to be an ecological disaster apart from being a health hazard, says scientist Basant Kumar Kandpal. While Pathak says the administration is planning to use the water for irrigation, Kandpal says it could harm the delicate desert ecology.