After months of it running bone dry, there is frenzied activity at the iconic lake at Purana Qila. The National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) has been assigned the task of restoring the lake — famous for boating among capital residents.
NBCC has concretised the lake embankment and paved it with stones, while the bed is being covered with a “perforated geo textile sheet” to stop percolation. Treated water from the Okhla Sewage Treatment Plant will be brought in to fill the lake, which stretches from Talaaqi Darwaza to Bada Darwaza of the 16th century monument and was part of the moat surrounding the fort.
The method being used for the ‘revival’, however, has irked environment activists. According to activists, the concretisation and laying down of the sheets will only aid in killing the lake.
“The NBCC is creating modern paved area which dilutes the historical context. There are several High Court rulings to protect lakes, including directives to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The Central Ground Water Board has categorised this entire area as critical and semi critical, which means that there is over exploitation of groundwater resources. Economical and environment friendly alternatives to reviving the lake have been overlooked by the NBCC,” said Manu Bhatnagar, principal director, Natural Heritage Division, INTACH.
At the site, the concretisation of the embankment is nearly complete and work to lay down the sheet is underway. The site supervisor, who did not want to be named, said that work will be complete by the end of September.
According to NBCC chairperson A K Mittal, they got the project plan vetted by a team from IIT Roorkee.
“Percolation losses at the lake are a lot. We are using perforated geo textile sheets to make sure some water is percolated. If we don’t use this sheet, all the water that is brought in will be soaked up and the area will be dry again. The decision was taken to stop that from happening. There is no natural source to feed the lake. We will bring in water once from the Okhla STP. It is not an exercise that can happen over and over again,” said Mittal.
According to sources, the sheets have been procured at a cost of Rs 2 crore and there is a proposal to aerate and treat the water. Environment activists have now approached the National Green Tribunal against the plan and the matter will be heard on Wednesday.