Jal Mahal, Jaipur

25 Jul

Jal Mahal (meaning “Water Palace”) is a palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur city, the capital of the state of Rajasthan, India. The palace and the lake around it were renovated and enlarged in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amber.[1][2]

The Jal Mahal palace has got an eye-popping makeover. Traditional boat-makers from Vrindavan have crafted the Rajput style wooden boats. A gentle splashing of oars on the clear lake waters takes you to Jal Mahal. You move past decorated hallways and chambers on the first floor to climb all the way up to the fragrant Chameli Bagh. Across the lake, you can view the Aravalli hills, dotted with temples and ancient forts, and on the other side, bustling Jaipur. The most remarkable change is in the lake itself. The drains were diverted, two million tonnes of toxic silt were dredged from the bottom, increasing its depth by over a metre, a water treatment system was developed, local vegetation and fish reintroduced, the surrounding wetlands regenerated and five nesting islands created to attract migratory birds.


The lake, situated to the north of Jaipur city lies between Amber, the historic city and Jaipur, the provincial headquarters of Rajastan state. It has a water spread area of 300 acres (121 ha) and is enclosed by the Aravalli hills on the north, west and eastern side, while the southern side consists of plains that is intensely inhabited. There is the Nahargarh Fort (Nahargarh means home of tigers) in these hills that provides a commanding view of the Man Sagar lake and the Jal Mahal palace, in addition to a beautiful view of the city of Jaipur. The lake was created by constructing a dam across the Darbhawati River, between Khilagarh hills and hilly areas of Nahargarh, in the 16th century. The drainage area of the lake is 23.5 square kilometres (9.1 sq mi)contributed by an urban area accounting for 50%, hilly terrain accounting for the balance area comprising the degraded Aravalli hills, which have added to siltation problem in the lake. Rain fall of an average of 657.4 millimetres (25.88 in) per year (90% of this rainfall occurs during the months of June to September) in the catchment contributes to the storage in the reservoir. At the outlet end of the dam, there is an irrigation system that is supplied with water stored in the reservoir (obligatory water demand for this is reported to be 2,410,000 cubic metres during the five months from November to March). But two large nalas (streams) that also drain the surrounding Nahargarh hills and the Jaipur town are the Brahmpuri and Nagtalai, which bring in large amount of untreated sewage flows, in addition to solid wastes.


In the past, at the location of the lake, there was a natural depression where water used to accumulate. During 1596 AD, when there was a severe famine in this region there was consequent acute shortage of water. The then ruler of Ajmer was, therefore, motivated to build a dam to store water to overcome the severe hardships caused by the famine to the people inhabiting the region. A dam was constructed, initially using earth and quartzite, across the eastern valley between Amer hills and Amagarh hills. The dam was later converted into a stone masonry structure in the 17th century. The dam, as existing now (see picture), is about 300 metres (980 ft) long and 28.5–34.5 metres (94–113 ft) in width. It is provided with three sluice gates for release of water for irrigation of agricultural land in the down stream area. Since then, the dam, the lake and the palace in its midst have undergone several rounds of restoration under various rulers of Rajasthan but the final restoration in the 18th century is credited to Jai Singh II of Amer. During this period, a number of other historical and religious places, such as the Amer Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Nahargarh Fort, Khilangarh Fort, Kanak Vrindavan Valley were also built in the vicinity of the lake. All these places are now linked under a tourist corridor of road net work.

Man Sagar lake

In recent years, with urbanization of Jaipur city and areas surrounding the lake, ecological system of the lake and its vicinity area deteriorated drastically. It got silted up heavily thereby reducing the surface area of the lake. The silt deposited (estimated to be about 2,500,000 cubic metres) was contaminated with effluents (untreated sewage) from the city drainage causing intense eutrophication. The ground water around the lake was also found to be highly contaminated and created serious health hazards. The rainwater combined with sewage water flow from the city resulted in the lake water emnating foul smell. Water samples collected from the lake were tested, which clearly showed that water quality was not uniform. It was extremely poor in southeast, south and southwest caused due influent nalas. The water quality parameters of BOD and total nitrogen recorded were 20 mg/L each. BOD values indicated high level of organic matter. COD denoted a very high level of oxidisable chemicals. Nitrate and phosphate content were excessive. Coliform number was more than 500 times the normal. The Chloride content was found to be fatal to plants and fishes.





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