Like Giri taal, the Drona Sagar (29.12’24 N & 78.58’15 E) is another lake in Kashipur town succumbing to official neglect. The circular water body is spread over about 3 hectare of land and is hardly 1.5 km away from Giri taal in south east direction.
In recent past, both the lakes were fed by a distributary canal originating from Tumria dam on Phika river in Ramganga basin. Presently the canal portion between these lakes has been replaced with giant RCC hume pipes and a RCC road has been laid over it. The inlet of the canal joining Drona Sagar has also been cemented.
Drona Sagar lake is part of over 74 acres land parcel hosting several religious temples, cultural symbols and an archaeological site making it famous pilgrim centre known as Teerath Drona Sagar.
The origin of the lake is linked to Mahabharata era. It is widely believed that this is the place where Guru Dronacharya had trained the Pandavs in war skills and in obeisance, Panvas dug the pond for Dronacharya. As per another legend, the pond was the result of soil excavation for Govisana Fort during Harshavardhana rule.
The Govisana (cow’s horn) is ancient name of Kashipur town given by Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveller. A huge excavated mound in east of Drona Sagar is stated to be ruins of Govisana fort but the inscription outside the site by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) terms it as Panchayan temple.
On another earth mound at some distance from ASI site, inhabits a shrine with Dronacharya’s etched statue on a mounted platform overlooking the lake.
In olden time, Teerath Drona Sagar was among sacred places to visit enroute Char Dham pilgrimage. The lake was believed holding holy water akin to Ganga and bathing in it was considered auspicious. Great saints like Tulsi Das, Gautam Budha and Swami Dayanand Saraswati are known to have visited the lake.
Elderly people still remember time when they used to have a bath in Drona Sagar. However, presently the lake lies in a sorry state. The lake has very small amount of water that too is covered under thick layer of vegetation covering the entire lakebed.
The corners and other portions of the lake are filled with solid waste.
Like the inlet,
the outlet has also been closed.
Near entry point from West side, a part of the lake has been carved out and converted into swimming pool for children. Most of the time it remains dry and is filled with groundwater when required.
A separate tubewell is installed to facilitate bathing during religious ceremonies and rituals. That is the only water going into the lake apart from rain water draining into it from surrounding areas.
With no permanent water source, the lake has been turned into a putrefying water body.
Upto few years back, Drona Sagar Samiti a local governing body was taking care of the lake.
Recently, the government has taken over it and planned to develop it into a tourist place. Local people have objected to the plan demanding it must be maintained as holy pilgrim site and not as a tourist attraction centre.
Earlier too, government had talked of a Rs. 47 crore plan to develop the location as part of Mahabharata circuit and create musical fountain, laser show etc. facilities there.
Last year, the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) reportedly released Rs. 5 crore for renovation work around the lake. The amount is to be spent on construction of main gate, food court, open air theatre, Children Park and parking among other things.
About 20 metre long about 4 feet wide elevated concrete ramp for installation of Dronacharya statue has already been built inside the lake area.
Currently, tiling and repair work of walking track around the lake area is undergoing.
The Irrigation Department has been allotted Rs. 67 lakh to connect the Drona Sagar with canal water supply. However, local visitors assume, the lake would be filled with groundwater through a tubewell.
Meanwhile, the Irrigation Department has found the draining of mud and sludge a tough task as actual lake bed is deeper than exit point and the outlet drain is buried.
A visit to the Drona Sagar and available media reports only suggest the future of the lake is uncertain. The government plans appear concerned more about development of tourist facilities and lack holistic approach to protect and revive the ancient lake.
The concerned department must make honest efforts to restore the water supply sources to the Drona Sagar and also facilitate rainwater harvesting structures in and around the lake. Otherwise further degradation of ancient Drona Sagar lake seems inevitable.
Text & Images Bhim Singh Rawat, SANDRP (firstname.lastname@example.org)