At Haryana’s Harappan site of Rakhigarhi, anxiety trumps history

Paper: GS-I

Topic: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

For Prelims: Harappan Site if Rakhigarhi.

For Mains: Concerns over the Center’s plan to develop Rakhigarhi site.

Why in news?

Harappan Site of Rakhigarhi:

  • Looking at the mounds at the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi, where locals dry cow dung cakes and dump garbage, there is little to show the thousands of years of history beneath.
  • After Finance Minister announced the government’s plan to fund five on-site museums, including the under-construction museum initiated by the Haryana government at Rakhigarhi, in Budget speech, there is excitement and concern here.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India has started planning the project.
  • Union Tourism and Culture Minister visited the site and spoke to villagers about their concerns.

Changing History:

  • If Dholavirachanged history, Rakhigarhi is changing history for the second time. People in Delhi will have to visit Rakhigarhi; the government would work with the villagers to address their concerns as the tourist hub is formed.
  • As per the former sarpanch, or local head, “We are happy that there will be work in our villages, but we are scared about what will happen to us. Already, people are anxious about the rehabilitation of homes around mound number four and five.”
  • The ASI has been able to get under its control just 83.5 acres of the 350-hectare site that spans 11 mounds, after first taking over the site in 1996, due to encroachments and pending court cases. The site is under ASI protection.
  • If encroachments are removed, the cow dung on the mounds will also shift, that about 5% of the site had been excavated so far by the ASI and Deccan College, Pune.
  • Among the findings, which indicate both early and mature Harappan phases were a 4,600-year-old female skeleton, fortification and bricks.
  • As part of encroachment removal, 152 households are being shifted to flats, according to Hisar Deputy Commissioner.

Concerns:

  • Many villagers say that is not enough and if the rehabilitation scheme is a sign of things to come, there may be more tension over future projects.
  • There is no adequate space. If government is taking away a 500 square-yard house, Government is giving villagers only, a 100-square yard flat in return. There is no talk of alternative land for the space to dry cow dung cakes.

Way Forward:

  • The government should make an “action plan” for the site with the Panchayat.
  • All five archaeological sites mentioned in the Budget – Rakhigarhi, Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh, Shivsagar in Assam, Dholavira in Gujarat and Adichanallur in Tamil Nadu – would be developed into “iconic sites” simultaneously.

Panel to study Ulsoor lake pollution

Paper: GS-III

Topic: Environmental Issues and Protection

For Prelims: Ulsoor Lake, its flora and fauna, National Green Tribunal

For Mains: Protection of the Lakes of India

Why in news?

  • The southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the constitution of a joint committee to take samples of water from Bengaluru’s Ulsoor Lake and neighbouring areas to ascertain whether the lake is being polluted due to illegal activity and tasked the panel with also carrying out an analysis of the water in the lake.

Ulsoor Lake:

  • Built in the 17th century, the 60ha Ulsoor Lake is part of a network of hundreds of reservoirs in Bangalore built by the Gowda Kings to provide the city with a sustainable potable water supply. The lakes were connected by stormwater channels known as Nalahs.
  • Today, the Ulsoor Lake is one of the largest lakes remaining of this network, suffering from environmental challenges including poor water quality, degraded landscape and ecology, poor public realm, as well as the abundance of surrounding vehicular traffic.

National Green Tribunal on Lake:

  • The NGT bench comprising Justice K. Ramakrishnan and expert member Saibal Dasgupta made a suo moto after schools of fish in the lake were found dead.
  • The water analysis should include not only Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) limit but also the Total Coliforms and Faecal Coliforms and also the presence of any heavy metals like Arsenic, Phosphorus, etc. which are likely to affect the human health and if such things are found, suggest the remedial measures required to restore the water quality in that area,” the bench ruled.

Illegal activities:

  • The bench indicated that the water quality had come down due to illegal activities being carried out while discharging untreated sewage, effluents and the dumping of garbage into the water body, affecting the quality of the water and the ecology and aquatic life, much required for ecological sustenance.
  • If the quality of the water in the lake is affected, it will automatically reflect in the ground water quality which in turn affects the health of the people who are likely to consume the poor quality of water, which is not in conformity with the norms provided for drinking purpose,” the bench observed.

The Panel:

  • The committee will comprise the Deputy Commissioner of Bengaluru (Urban), a senior scientist from the regional Office of Central Pollution Control Board, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and the Commissioner, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike.
  • The committee has been directed to inspect the area, find out the source of pollution and take action against those responsible. The panel has also been asked to suggest remedial measures.

Flora and fauna of Ulsoor Lake:

  • The lake is very rich in flora and fauna. Several species of beautiful birds can be spotted near the lake. Ulsoor Lake is surrounded by green bushes that have attractive wild flowers in various colours.
  • It is interesting to observe the numerous species of butterflies and insects existing in the bushes near the lakes. The lake has fountains that are switched on for limited time and are a delight to watch.

Way Forward:

  • Before tackling enhancements and the creation of public space, the water quality requires resolution. This involves redirecting foul water, aerating the lake, increasing capacity within the interceptor system and improving sanitation and public health infrastructure in the immediate catchment around the lake.
  • Cleaning the lake unlocks the public realm around it, our strategy proposes a lake of many places. Gateways, spaces and markers form a distinctive welcome and are linked by a network of boardwalks. Beautifully constructed and robustly detailed, these create connections across the lake.
  • Surrounded by highways and with no dedicated pedestrian or cycle infrastructure, Ulsoor sits disconnected from the thriving urban realm around it.