AN EXPERT committee has found “convincing evidence” of the “ancient mighty” Saraswati river that used to flow several hundred years ago through Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat before meeting the Arabian Sea in the Rann of Kutch.
The committee, constituted by the Water Resources Ministry in March this year, has, however, said there was “so far” no evidence of “subsurface existence” of the other branch of this river that is believed to have flown towards Allahabad to meet the Ganga and Yamuna at the religiously significant triveni sangam (confluence of three rivers).
The seven-member committee is headed by geologist K S Valdiya, former vice-chancellor of Kumaon University, who is now associated with the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Research in Bengaluru.
Based on its studies of paleochannels in the three states, the committee has come to the conclusion that the “Himalayan-born Satluj of the past that flowed through the channels of the present day Ghaggar-Patialiwali rivulets represents the western branch of the ancient river Saraswati”.
“The Markanda and the Sarsuti nadis provided pathways to the eastern branch of the Saraswati river, now known as the Tons-Yamuna rivers. These two branches joined at Shatrana, 25 km south of Patiala, and flowed as a large river through the wide channel of the (current) Ghaggar-Hakra-Nara (basin) before emptying itself in a gulf of the western sea, now represented by the Rann of Kachchh,” the committee has said in its report.
Paleochannels are remains of old rivers that have gone dry or disappeared. Though no water is found in these paleochannels, they have higher moisture content as compared to neighbouring areas. They also have the ability to hold water, and thus, can potentially be recharged.
The committee has said that the Saraswati river had supported human settlements near the current Ghaggar-Hakra basin from the fourth millennium (4,000 years) BC though there was “perceptible dwindling, both quantitatively and qualitatively in the settlement pattern during the second millennium BC which is attributed to the changing water regime”.
The committee has recommended further work on these paleochannels, including collection of more data, efforts to recharge, and framing of regulation on withdrawal of groundwater from these areas.