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Dilli's ancients show the way

While most of Delhi grapples with water problems it would be timely to go back in history and see how our ancestors dealt with the issue.Water consciousness was high on the minds of the people. The presence of baolis, reservoirs, canals and dighis bear testimony to the fact that people thought of preserving water. Yamuna was not seen as the only source. We take a look at the ways in which Dilli harvested water.

india Updated: May 19, 2003 15:28 IST


This is a step well which is found in the northwest of India chiefly in the states of Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and parts of Gujarat. It is partially covered to prevent water loss by evaporation.

Delhi has many baolis to its credit. Famous ones include Gandak Ki Baoli (because of the presence of gandak or sulphur in its water), Rajon ki baoli, Dargah Kaki Saheb ki baoli, Mahavir Sthal baoli, Nazamuddin baoli, one at Ferozeshah Kotla, and Muradabad ki Puhad ki baoli in Vasant Vihar. These baolis are still functional.

But unfortunately the most famous of them all, Ugrasen ki baoli along with Palam ki baoli and Sultanpur ki baoli are dysfunctional.

Reservoirs of Delhi
Impounding rainwater from the neighbouring hills is a standard practice in northwestern India. Delhi, which has seen many empires in the past always did so. Hence the presence of reservoirs.

Surajkundbuilt by Tomar king Anangpal, Hauz-e-Iltumish built by Sultan Iltumish of the Delhi Sultanate, Hauz Khas by Alauddin Khilji are vestiges from an era gone by.

Shahjahani canal and dighi
When the Red Fort was still being constructed, Emperor Shah Jahan asked his engineer Ali Mardan Khan to bring the Yamuna waters into the city and his palace. The more prominent canals of this intricate network were the Sitare Wali Nahar and Nahar-e-Bahisht (also called Nahar-e-Faiz in Chandni Chowk area).

A dighi is a square or circular reservoir of about .38 m by .38 m with steps to enter.

First Published: May 16, 2003 17:59 IST