India is a land of several great rivers. Haryana the 20th Indian state has also been enriched by numbers of rivers, streams and rivulets. These rivers only strike public discourses during monsoon when they flood human habitations although pollution and sand mining incidents are routinely covered. Moreover there is no Government Department in the State which is in control or possession of complete information on the rivers of the State, as the various State Government Agencies in limited manner deal with specific issues affecting the rivers and there are Government Agencies also whose plans or projects impact the rivers in adverse manner. This two part blog report from SANDRP strives to present a picture on the rivers of Haryana. The State is broadly divided by two basins: Indus and Ganga. This first part of the blog mainly focuses on rives which are part of Indus basin. The second part will bring information of other rivers in the State which join the Ganga basin. Apart from putting together the basic facts, the blog series also highlights the key issues and present day status of these river systems.
About the State: Haryana with a 253.53 lakhs (2011) population living on 44212 sq km geographical area is land locked state in northwest of India. It is bordered by Punjab and Himachal Pradesh to the north, and by Rajasthan to the west and south. The river Yamuna defines its eastern border with Uttar Pradesh. Haryana surrounds the country’s capital Delhi on three sides, forming the northern, western and southern borders of Delhi.
Haryana also known as “Abode of God” on 01st November this year has completed 50 years of its formation since 1966 when it was carved out of erstwhile Punjab. The agriculturally rich state has a cultivable area of 3.7 million hectare which covers about 84% of its total geographical area. There are two agro climatic zones in the state. Administratively the State is divided into 4 divisions 23 districts.
Haryana has four main geographical features
- The Yamuna-Ghaggar plain forming the largest part of the state
- The Shivalik Hills to the northeast
- Semi-desert sandy plain to the southwest
- The Aravali Range in the south
Haryana is extremely hot in summer and winter here is mild. The climate is arid to semi-arid with average rainfall of 354.5 mm. It lies between 27°39′ to 30°35′ N latitude and between 74°28′ and 77°36′ E longitude whereas the altitude of Haryana varies between 700 feet and 3600 feet above sea level.
As per India State of Forest Report, FSI, 2013, the Forest Cover in the state is 1586 km2 which is 3.59% of the state’s geographical area and the Tree Cover in the state is 1282 km2 which is 2.90% of the geographical area. Thus the Forest and Tree Cover of the Haryana state is 6.49% of its geographical area.
Rivers at a glance: Rivers in Haryana fall mainly within Indus and Ganga basins. River Ghaggar sub basin and its tributaries in the west of the state caters to the Indus basin, while river Yamuna and its tributaries in the east make up the portion of the Ganga basin.
Haryana Rivers and Drainage Map Source Haryana Irrigation Department
Table:1 Basic details of Rivers flowing in/ through Haryana state
|SN||Name of Rivers||Length* (km) in
Coordinates: 29.5961°N 75.0176°E
|489/ 250||Shivalik Hills
Himachal, Haryana Border
|Ottu Barrage in Sirsa|
Himachal, Haryana Border
|No Information||Kaushalya Dam|
|3||Markanda / Aruna
30.3663° N, 77.1492° E
Himachal, Haryana Border
|Begna||Barrage at Jalbehra in Kurukshetra|
Himachal, Haryana Border
|Seasonal Shivalik streams||None|
Himachal, Haryana Border
|Seasonal Shivalik streams||None|
Himachal, Haryana Border
|Seasonal Shivalik streams||None|
|7||Dohan 28°25’0″ N 76°9’0″ E||150/50||Aravali Hills Range
Rajasthan, Haryana Border
|Season Aravali Streams||Hamidpur Check Dam|
|8||Krishanvati / Kasunti||90/30||Aravali Hills Range
Rajasthan, Haryana Border
|Season Aravali Streams||Norana Check Dam Rajasthan|
|9 Ganga Basin||Yamuna||1376/350||Bandar Punch Glacier,
|Somb, Thapana, Sahibi||Hathini Kund Barrage|
|11||Thapana||HR-15||Shivalik Tarai||Few local streams||No Structure|
Coordinates: 28°29′N 76°44′E
|317/120||Aravali Hills Range
Rajasthan, Haryana Border
|Sota river, Kotkasim drain and Indori river||Masani|
* The north western area of Panchakula district is falling in Sutlej river basin. Thus Sutlej is also a river of Haryana state.
The basin wise details of key rivers is as under
INDUS BASIN (GHAGGAR SUB BASIN)
Ghaggar Basin Map Source: IWRIS
Ghaggar Basin:- The geographical extent of the Ghaggar and others sub-basin lies between 72° 20′ to 77° 22′ East longitudes and 27° 29′ to 30° 54′ North latitudes of the country. Ghaggar and other sub-basin which covers part of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana states forms the largest sub-basin of Indus basin with total catchment area of 49978 Sq. Km. apart from 26235 Sq. Km. of sub basin lying in Haryana spread over 45 watershed.
Ghaggar River: The Ghaggar River rises in Shivalik hills in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh. It enters Haryana in Panchkula district. Hereafter the river flows making border between Punjab and Haryana for more than 100 Km. After Sirsa district the river leaves Haryana State and reaches Sri Ganga Nagar district, Rajasthan where after a certain length its course becomes untraceable. Once a perennial river, it is now seasonal at best. But during the monsoons, all its tributaries are found to be in flood.
Historical Importance: The Ghaggar river is known as Ghaggar before the Ottu barrage and as the Hakra downstream of the barrage. The Indus Valley Civilization is also believed to have flourished in the basins of the Indus and the Ghaggar-Hakra River.
Built and natural heritage along and around Ghaggar River: There are several natural and built heritage sites found in close proximity of the River Ghaggar. The pictorial table below has a brief mention about few of them along with hyper link given for further details.
Projects on Ghaggar River: There are 2 dams and 5 lift irrigation schemes on Ghaggar River in Haryana and Punjab states. There have been efforts from Punjab Govt. to build a dam on the river near Banur, Patiala against which local are protesting. There is also a barrage namely Ottu Reservoir which was formerly known as Dhanur lake located near the village of Ottu, in Sirsa in Haryana. It was constructed in 1896-97 using low-cost labor that was available due to a famine in the region at that time. It works as feeder for the two Ghaggar canals (the Northern Ghaggar canal and the Southern Ghaggar canal) that carry irrigation water to northern Rajasthan state. As the river flows seasonally the Barrage mainly stores rain water and polluted water discharged by towns located upstream via drains and tributaries.
Pollution: River Ghaggar faces severe pollution threats right from its origin. Several industrial units and towns in Himachal discharge their effluents into river. The Story remains unchanged in Haryana where around Mansa, Chandigarh the river has turned black and stinks unbearably. Both states have been in blaming each other for discharging pollution in the River. Punjab maintains that industries and soap factories in Ratia Haryana are main cause behind Ghaggar’s pollution. Whereas Haryana blames Punjab for dumping industrial effluents in great volume in the river via Tangsu Drain, Dera Bassi Drain and Bari Nadi from Mohali, Dera Bassi town and Patiala city respectively.
Meanwhile, according to reports, ground water in 40% of the area around the river has been declared unfit for drinking and irrigation. Villagers living in the river vicinity have been complaining of rise in cancer like diseases.
A study in 2009 titled Pesticide Pollution of River Ghaggar found residue of banned toxic pesticides like HCH and DDT in Ghaggar water. Attributing the presence these banned chemicals to their previous and continued use, the study recommended a complete ban on sale and use of banned pesticides like DDT and HCH.
Image showing Ghaggar River and sources of pollution Source: CPCB & Above mentioned study
Likewise, a 2010 Central Pollution Control Board report titled Pollution Status of River Ghaggar described various sources of pollution mentioned the river in highly polluted state. Similarly a 2012 research paper titled Heavy Metal Pollution of Ghaggar River in Upper Reaches found concentration of heavy metals in the river water way beyond the maximum permissible limits of drinking at many sites. The study also revealed that the Ghaggar River water contained very high concentration of Cd and crossed the desirable as well as maximum permissible limit of BIS.
In May 2016, the NGT took cognizance of pollution in the Ghaggar on the request of National Human Rights Commission and subsequently issued Notices to Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh Governments. Responding to NGT notices in September 2016, the Punjab government told the green tribunal that sewage treatment plants in 7 towns were already commissioned and construction was on 8 other towns. The hill state of Himachal blamed domestic and industrial waste from Haryana as the Markanda confluences with Ghaggar in Panchkula district after travelling 50km from Kala Amb in Sirmaur district. The NGT is learnt to have given last opportunity to both Haryana and Chandigarh administration to file status report on pollution in Ghaggar.
Flood: Once considered a lifeline for the villages alongside its bank, the river Ghaggar has been termed as the ‘River of Sorrow’ due to the occasional floods it has caused in the past over a decade. A few decades ago, this river used to spread its water in its banks, which were almost 500-metres-wide at certain places, due to which, the excess water got spread and caused minimal damage. But with the passage of time, illegal buildings came up alongside the river, and the damage increases every year.
In 2004, around 25 villages in Sangrur district of Punjab were flooded with gushing waters of river Ghaggar. At that time, authorities in Haryana had alleged that Punjab was using portion of SYL canal in their territory as also the Narwana branch of the Bhakra system to drain out and divert flood waters from Punjab into Haryana. 2010 floods caused a huge loss to thousands of residents in the adjoining Punjab districts. In 2011, also a swollen Ghaggar had wreaked havoc in over two dozen villages of Patiala and damaged hundreds of acres of paddy crop. In Haryana also Ghaggar has caused many floods. While the river wade through Panchkula, Ambala, Kaithal, Fatehabad and Sirsa districts of the state, water is discharged in it at Panchkula, Guhla cheeka, Khanauri, Chandpu and Ottu. During floods, Ghaggar has the propensity to wreak havoc in Ambala. Fatehabad and Sirsa districts, where the river covers almost 140 km, are among the worst hit.
Experts say that the floods in the Ghaggar basin are frequent and furious because of gentle slope and a lack of horizontal drainage. They also point out that floods in the region often become more destructive and have long lasting effects due to encroachments in the river bed and obliteration of surface drainage because of constructions of roads, railway lines, canals and urban expansion.
SANDRP report on Ghaggar Floods: SANDRP in its report titled ‘Unprecedented flood in Ghaggar Basin’ has mentioned that at a number of places the flood plains and even flow paths of the Ghaggar have been encroached upon by various builders, with the partnership of the bureaucrats, politicians and the engineers. The report also highlighted that local water harvesting structures have been poorly maintained. The report also found that the ill designed and ill maintained Hansi Butana Canal has played a crucial role in spreading the flood disaster in Ghaggar basin to new areas in 2010. In April 2014, Haryana High Court directed the Central Ghaggar Styanding Committee to resolve the issue of floods caused by Ghaggar river in Punjab and Haryana at the earliest. The court also maintained that it is an “inter state dispute” and should be resolved without delay.
Kaushalya River: The Kaushalya river rises in the Shivalik hills on the border of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, and flows through Panchkula district and confluences with Ghaggar river near Pinjore just downstream of Kaushalya Dam.
Unjustified and Costly Kaushalya Dam: The Kaushalya Dam is an earth-fill embankment dam, in Pinjore. It was constructed between 2008 and 2012 with the primary purpose of water supply. In December 2005, the Haryana government approved a project for construction of an earthen dam across river Kaushalya near Pinjore for Rs 51.37 crore with a view to supply drinking water to Panchkula town, recharge ground water, check flash floods, promote tourism and fisheries in reservoir area. The construction of the dam commenced in 2008. The administrative approval was revised to Rs 217 crore in September 2011 due to increase in the cost of land, height and top width of the dam to provide passage for residential sectors being developed by HUDA on the other side of river. The dam was finally constructed with a 34-metre height and a 30-metre top width at a cost of Rs 208.37 crore till May 2013.
However, in July 2014 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) questioned the success of the Kaushalya dam project. CAG said that the objective of providing drinking water to Panchkula town from the Kaushalya dam constructed at a cost of Rs 208.37 crore could not be achieved. CAG pointed out that the envisaged benefits from the project were not achieved. In March 2015 CAG while raising the same concerns again termed the dam project scam-ridden.
Dry Kaushalya Dam Image Source The Hindustan Times
In June 2013, the water level in the reservoir was at elevation level of 456.90 metre against the bed level of 450 metre, whereas the outlet from where water was to be supplied to HUDA was at 460 metres resulting in a no water supply to HUDA. In the summer of 2016 the Dam ran dry causing water crisis in the Panchkula district. The dam supplies 18 cusec to the city which needs 155 million litres a day (MLD) roughly, the non-functioning of dam led to non-availability of around 36 MLD to the system.
Pollution: According to 2012 study titled “A study of water quality of Kaushalya River in the submountaneous Shivalik Region” river water most samples collected during 2011 were found in acceptable range except COD, Alkalinity, Hardness, Total Coliform and Faecal Coliform which showed human, animal and agricultural activities as the main sources of pollution. Trace metal and pesticides levels were low suggesting low contamination of the river by industrial wastes and toxics.
Markanda River: 1 Markanda River is a main tributary of the Ghaggar River. It originates in the Shivalik hills on the border of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh State, and flows westward through Haryana and finally joins River Ghaggar from right side at the out circuit of Ckeeka town in Kaithal district.
Cultural Significance: The ancient name of river is Aruna and it is believed that it was a tributary of Saraswati river. There is famous Markandeshwar Mahadev temple situated on the bank of Markanda in Shahabad town of Kurukshetra district. The river derives its name from Maharishi Markandeya as well and several ancient ashramas of Rishi Markandeya can be seen along the banks of the river in the neighboring districts. Pilgrims turn out to visit the Markandeshwar Mahadev temple in large numbers on Sundays and during the month of Shravan.
Flood Problem: Over the years the river has turned seasonal but during monsoons, it swells up into a raging torrent, which is notorious for its devastating power power brings floods to villages and towns. The surplus water is carried on to the Sanisa Lake where the Markanda joins the Saraswati. There is a flood control structure built on river at Jalbehra in Kurukshetra district. Every year the river floods during monsoon. On August 2013 the infuriated Markanda breached several embankments in Amabala districts flooding many villages. The flood water damaged crops of hundreds of farmers. Villagers of long were demanding strengthening of Damli embankment but except promise nothing was done. Similarly on July, 23, 2016 this year high alert was sounded in Ambala after heavy rains flooded Tangri and Markanda rivers.
Pollution: The locally much revered river has come under a threat from the unplanned industrial growth in the neighbouring Nahan and Kala Amb town of Himachal. With a number of multinational companies setting up units there, huge quantities of effluents are being released into the Markanda, which have completely destroyed the biotic life in the river. Industries and towns located in its catchment discharge polluted water into the river.
The Kala-amb region in district Sirmour has about 350 industrial units and most of the units are situated around Markanda River. The major industries in these areas include pharmaceutical, chemicals, ghee industry, food industry, ferroalloy, paper & pulp etc. These industries but are discharging their effluents in the nearby natural drains and are being ultimately collected in Markanda river. Water from handpumps of a large number of villages along the river bank has been rendered unfit for human consumption. The Haryana Pollution Control Board had taken up this matter with the Himachal government a number of time but to no avail.
Tangri River: The Tangri River rises between Ghaggar and Markanda in Shivalik hills in Ambala district. The river also pronounced as Dangri merges in Ghaggar. The river has become seasonal, though it has a good network of smaller and seasonal streams. The river has become notorious for causing floods in the region. In 2010, it breached the embankment and caused unprecedented flooding in Ambala and Kurukshetra.
Since the river remains dry for most of times, its floodplain has been encroached. According news report there are about 1700 families living on the river bed in Ambala district. In July 2016 the district administration asked the residents to vacate the area. Unfortunately the residents were not relocated and faced flooding during July 2016. A few years ago, people had lost their belongings in similar flood spell.
Local people say that many illegal structures have come up on the riverbed in the last few years. In August 2016 the State Government has decided to notify the 7-km stretch of the river from Boh village to Ghasitpur to keep a check on the mushrooming of illegal colonies. While the administration calls the colonies illegal, residents are miffed at the situation and claim they had been issued water and electricity connections. They asked why no action was taken when the colonies were being built and demands rehabilitation before evacuation.
Saraswati & other lost streams: The legendary Saraswatiriver has been subject of discussion for over few decades. Volumes of research work have given different theories of its existence. Study of paleochannels by Indian Space Research Organization has confirmed presence of a river emanating from Shivalik Hills and then flowing through Haryana, Rajasthan parallel to Satluj and eventually falling in the ocean after passing Little Runn of Kutch.
The river has been linked closely to Vedic civilization. Rich data has also been collected on historical and mythical evidences mentioning the ‘disappeared’ river. However confusion still prevails over origin place of the river. Similarly there are various reasons being given behind disappearance of the river, which fails to dispel mysteries doing round in general public. Presently Ghaggar, Markanda and even Chautang Rivers are mentioned to be original course of Saraswati river by various scholars. The river has also been described as a part of Ghaggar-Hakra System.
Present Government has been showing great interest in reviving the river. During Atal Bihari Vajpayi, regime a Saraswati Heritage Development Board has been formed. The project remained in cold storage in UPA tenure but under current Government has once again put on fast track with Union Ministry of Culture setting aside Rs. 50 crore fund for Saraswati River. Union Water Ministry has also appeared very keen in excavation of buried course and filling it up with ground water. Haryana Government has also announced to create a research centre on the river in Kurukshetra University.
Recently the a Committee constituted by Central Government under geologist K.S. Valdiya has on the basis of paleo channel observations concluded that Saraswati river was in existence in past. Voices of discontent are also growing against reviving the river with borrowed water and short cut measures. State Government Haryana is also facing criticism for spending crores and paying much attention to a bygone era river and showing negligence towards cleaning and revival of exiting rivers.
At present, Adi Badri a natural water pond is considered as the origin place of Saraswati. The river then appears to follow in the course of Somb or parallel to Somb. Then the River course is untraceable as Somb flowing towards South-East soon joins River Yamuna.
The efforts of reviving the Saraswati River by Central and State Government of Haryana, begins from Mugalawali village in Vilaspur Block of Yamuna Nagar. From here excavation has been taken up of a supposedly buried water channel believed to be of Saraswati River. The ground water through pumps will be / is being put in this channel as part of Saraswati Revival work. A Saraswati Yamuna Link (SYL) link has also been created. Under this link Yamuna water diverted from Hathini Kund Barrage is diverted again from Dadapur barrage built on Somb river into to defunct Dadupur-Nalvi canal which happens to cross over the river at Uncha Chandna in Jagadhari. There is also plan to create a run-off water storage structure on Somb river to be released intermittently in Saraswati River.
Yamuna Saraswati Link Map
The river channel remains untraceable for a length of 30 km from Muglawali to Uncha Chandana in Yamuna Nagar. Same is the case with Choutang Nala believed to be a tributary of Saraswati river. There are several storm water channel known as Choutang which facilitate drainage of rain water in the Yamuna Nagar district. Today Chautang is virtually nonexistent stream. Sarsuti known as Drishdawati in ancient time flows close to Kurukshetra. Some believe that the Sarsuti is the original Saraswati course. Presently the defunct stream is in highly polluted state as several villages and towns along its course have been discharging waste water into it.
Dohan & Krishnavati Rivers: Dohan & Krishnavati Rivers originate from Western slope of Aravalli hills situated in Alwar and Sikar districts of Rajasthan. After flowing north east these rainfed streams enter Haryana at Hamidpur and Dostpur village respectively in Rewari District. The visible length of the river is approximately 70 and 50 kilometers. After long courses both channel disappears in Narunual and Mahendragarh districts. Haryana Government blames construction of water storages structures by Rajasthan Government behind turning the rivers dry even during monsoon. These streams were believed to be part of Saraswati system. The non-perennial rivers used to flow during rainy season and were a major source of recharging of groundwater reservoir. Both rivers were considered lifeline for southern Haryana, especially Mahendergarh district.
Summing Up: Based on the above information it can be concluded that
- There is no perennial river in Haryana States joining the Indus Basin.
- Kaushalya dam built on Kaushalya river has not been meeting its purpose despite costing crore of rupees.
- Most of the rivers have turned seasonal and carry floodwaters during monsoon.
- Ghaggar river joined by tributaries Markanda and Tangri in the State has been particularly flooding severely and frequently post 2000s.
- In absence of round the year flow flood plains of these rivers have been taken by agriculture.
- In case of Tangri, its bed has been encroached by illegal colonies in Ambala.
- Water intensive farming and wide use of chemical in agriculture have been impacting the rivers and adjoining aquifers adversely.
- Domestic sewage and industrial effluents from all three riparian States Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana is ultimately being discharged in the Ghaggar, Markanda and Tangri.
- Government of Haryana is planning to revive lost Saraswati by pumping ground water and borrowing water from already going dry Yamuna river.
- With half the efforts for Ghaggar, Markand and Tangri Haryana government can receive much better result.
- Sarsuti, Chautang, Drishtawati, Dohan and Krishnawati have gradually turned totally defunct and facing near extinction like Saraswati.
Information compiled & all Google Earth Maps drawn by
Bhim Singh Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org)