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Bundelkhand report: Elegy on the death of a lake

Baruasagar, one of the biggest-oldest man-made water reservoir, is no more, reports Pankaj Jaiswal.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2006 01:13 IST

On the way to Khajuraho, 24 kilometres from Jhansi, is Baruasagar. For outsiders, it was a tourist spot and pilgrimage, for people of the Baruasagar area, it was a lifeline.

When this correspondent visited the lake in 2000, standing on top of its dam wall, there was only water as far as the eyes could see. So loud was the sound of gushing water from the overflow point that two people standing within an earshot would not hear each other shouting at the top of their voices.

The sound is no more, so is the water in the lake. Abandoned cattle grazing in the dry pond, vestiges of crabs, molluscs (like snails), and other aquatic life on the cracked bottom of the lake, the irony couldn't have been more evident.

Baruasagar, one of the biggest-oldest man-made water reservoir, was fully functional till a few years ago. Now, people are migrating from the lake that helped generations of men earn their livelihood for the past two and a half centuries.

Erecting a thick strong wall between two hillocks, Raja Udit Singh of Orcha tapped a Barua nulla coming from Madhya Pradesh to create the lake nearly 260 years ago. He also built a fort on a fringe of the lake wall. In the north-east of the lake are ruins of two old granite-made Chandella temples. Nearby is Jarai-Ka-Math, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Parvati, a temple of the later Gupta period.

Baruasagar had also become an alternative to Haridwar for Hindu rites and rituals and had a 'Swargashram'. "This will be the first Makar Sankrant when there will be no snan  (holy bath) here. In a dry lake that's not possible too. It had gone dry last year too, but still there were several puddles within," said Girishwanand, a priest at the Swargashram.

Spread over 550 acres, with water level ranging from 5.75 meter on the fringes to over 10 meter towards the centre, Baruasagar overflowed whole of the monsoon.

But now, there is no water, as there had been very little rains for the past three years in the catchment area of the Barua nulla that come from Tikamgarh. But encroachments on the rivulets merging into the nulla and the nulla itself were the bigger reasons.

Now, some land sharks want to wallow in the dried pond. They don't want the water back in Baruasagar, as they are vying for 'patta' (lease) of the lake land.

Last year, some encroachers cultivated wheat on around 155 acre of the lake. Later, the district administration seized the yield and auctioned it for Rs 6 lakh.
Is Baruasagar dead then?

Email pjaiswal@hindustantimes.com