For years, tourists and Delhiites spent their holidays boating in the lake outside Purana Qila. But now, as it dies a slow death, no one wants to take responsibility. Officials at the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), caretaker of the 16th century monument, said they have nothing to do with the lake. “The lake is not under our jurisdiction. It falls under the Delhi zoo,” said R S Fonia, Joint Director General, ASI.
The National Zoological Park, colloquially called Delhi zoo, shares a boundary with the Qila and the lake. Officials there claimed the lake was under its jurisdiction many years ago, after which the government handed it to the ASI.
ASI officials denied this claim. The contract for boating in the lake, granted to the Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation (DTTDC), expired in April 2017, though boating continued till August 2017. Delhi tourism minister Kapil Mishra, also the water minister, said the Delhi government is not responsible for the lake’s maintenance.
The Delhi Development Authority, responsible for several water bodies — many of which have disappeared and dried up, also refused to take responsibility. “We are sure the lake is not under us. It used to be with the DTTDC,” said the DDA spokesperson.
Historians and water experts said that in the early days, the lake was fed by the Yamuna, which ran closer to the fort than it does now. After the river changed course, authorities started pumping water from the ground to keep the lake full.
For several months now, conservationists with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) have proposed filling up the lake with recycled water to make sure that pressure on ground water sources is reduced.
Water conservationist and founder of NGO Tapas, Vinod Kumar Jain, said “concretisation” of areas around Purana Qila was responsible for the current state of the lake.