Haryana plans to spend Rs 450 crore for symbolic revival of lost Saraswati

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Ground Report | News Desk

A narrow canal stretched over 190km in Haryana is being called the “lost Saraswati” —claimed to have been revived by the first-ever BJP government in the state, which had promised to bring to life the mythical river that has its mentions in ancient Hindu texts such as the Mahabharata and the Vedas.

The ‘river’ — named after the goddess of learning — is, at present, completely dry amid the deficit spell of rain in Haryana.

The state government, though, has plans to flow in fresh water in the river 365 days a year and develop a tourism and cultural corridor along its course.

In January, it approved 11 projects for the same, which include construction of a dam on seasonal Somb River and a reservoir on 370-acre land in Adi Badri, which will be interconnected to recharge the Saraswati.

The state government has now passed a budget of Rs 450 crore for the projects to be carried by the Haryana Saraswati Heritage Development Board, said its chairman Prashant Bharadwaj.

The government has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to dig 100 wells on the flow of river.

Opinion is divided on whether Saraswati — which along with Ganga and Yamuna form the three holy rivers of India — even existed or not.

In 2002, the NDA government led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had started the hunt for the lost river by setting up a panel of experts headed by then culture minister Jagmohan. The UPA government, however, had shelved the project after coming to power in 2004.

In 2015, the NDA government once again asked the culture ministry to restart the hunt for archaeological evidence for the river, and Haryana government led by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar announced the setting up of the Saraswati Board.

“The river has been built on the paleochannels where Saraswati flowed 8,000 years ago. Its course of channel has been verified through rigorous tasks undertaken by several agencies, including the Indian Space Research Organisation,” said G S Gautam, senior consultant working at the board.

The river disappeared around 5,000 years ago due to climatic and tectonic changes, it is believed.

“The board, due to available scientific evidence, believes the river is flowing underground. The ONGC has dug up earth up to thousands of feet to find Saraswati water, and samples have been collected and matched with glaciers to affirm the tributaries of Saraswati,” said Bharadwaj.

Going on the course of Saraswati in Haryana, the board dug up the land and plans to widen it on the river being compared to canal. It said the land revenue records of the stretch were in the name of Saraswati Board since 1912, but faced protests from farmers refusing to part with their land at some villages and is yet to get hold of 14 km stretch of land in Yamunanagar.