Delhi’s iconic Purana Qila lake — one of the few places in Delhi where boating was a regular feature — has dried up, with government agencies passing the responsibility for its upkeep to each other.
Barring a thin stream of water, all that remains of the lake is its cracked bed with half a dozen boats parked on one side. The lake, which stretches from Talaaqi Darwaza to Bada Darwaza of the 16th century monument, was part of the moat surrounding the fort.
“Earlier, the course of the Yamuna was closer to the fort and the lake was fed from there. Over the years, the Yamuna has been migrating eastwards and it is fairly far now. The lake was part of the fort’s moat on its western side. The water table has gone down and the lake has no source of water. Tubewells and ground water was used to fill the lake for some time. We feel that instead of using a precious resource like ground water in the lake, recycled water could be used,” said Manu Bhatnagar, principal director, Natural Heritage Division, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).
For over a month, the lake has been completely dry, Bhatnagar added. “Two weeks ago, we visited the place and took photographs. We were told that there was a problem with contractors who are supposed to fill the lake with water,” he said.
With parts of the Old Fort dating back to the 1530s, the monument falls under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
According to historian Sohail Hashmi, the fort was built on a hillock, which had the Yamuna flowing on its eastern side. “A crescent-shaped moat was built on its western side, whose water would have fallen into the river. Later, as the Yamuna moved, the lake was filled with rain water and water from pumps. A boat club was then formed and run by Delhi Tourism,” Hashmi said.
Delhi Tourism Minister Kapil Sharma, however, said the lake and boat operations were not under his department anymore. R S Fonia, Joint Director General, ASI, too said the body is not responsible for the lake’s maintenance.
Sources said after the Delhi government’s contract ended, the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), which comes under the Union Ministry of Culture, was to take over but this has not happened yet. ITDC officials refused to comment.