Tag Archives: water birds

Ghaggar River: The Lost Glory

Introduction

The rivers in India are of two types. The ones like Ganga and Indus are perennial in nature because they originate in Himalayas and are fed by melting ice. Others are intermittent in nature. Their catchment area is foothills of Himalayas and these flow in full glory only during monsoons in the catchment area in hills.

River Description

One such river is Ghaggar. It originates in the village of Dagshai in the Shivalik Hills of Himachal Pradesh at an elevation of 1,927 metres (6,322 ft) above mean sea level and flows through Punjab and Haryana states into Rajasthan just southwest of Sirsa, Haryana and by the side of Talwara Lake in Rajasthan. Dammed at Ottu barrage near Sirsa, Ghaggar feeds two irrigation canals that extend into Rajasthan.

The wild grasses growing in the bed of river

This river is located just a kilometre from our home and I visit it almost daily for morning walks and nature photography. Present conditions are described below:

Present Scenario

Amidst a quite big bed, water flows in a thin winding strip. Wild shrubs like Kans grass (Saccharum spontaneum), acacia trees grow in its bed. Many people use it as a garbage dump and also for open defecation. The river bed is ruthlessly mined for sand and pebbles by the sand mafia. Of course, during the monsoon season the river is in spate. But rest of the times one can walk through it with ease from one bank to another.

Muddy water flowing in the river during rains

The bed is home to many species of birds like Ring Plovers, Pratincole, Steppe Eagles, Wagtails, martins, lapwings and wiretails. Snakes also roam during summer mornings. During winter some migratory birds also come here.

A little ring plover in the river

Past Glory!!!

Standing on its bank, I think about its past glory. Satellite imagery and other archaeological studies indicate that once upon a time it was a mighty river. So much so that Yamuna and Satluj were its tributaries on East and West sides respectively. It flowed in full force into Arabian Sea. Due to plenty of water and fertile land around, it was a perfect place for the humans to settle in the ancient times. It is now becoming clear from the evidence gathered from excavations that there was a big population living along its banks during Indus Valley Civilization. It was a part of Ghaggar Hakra River system.

Rig Veda the Aryan holy Text, mentions about the holy Saraswati river so many times, was a part of Sapt (Seven) Sindhu (River) which eludes to Ghaggar and its six tributaries including Saraswati. Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati are the trinity of rivers held in great reverence by Hindus.

Then the Times changed on geological scale. Tectonic activity changed the river associations. Yamuna realigned with Ganges and wayward Satluj with Indus stripping Ghaggar of much of its volume of water leading to the disintegration of the towns on its banks.

Conditions nowadays are becoming even more grim.

Advertisements

Owl on the wall

I regularly go out for morning walks. Since there is no park near, you have to walk cautiously to avoid being hit by speeding vehicles which continuously pass on the road. So the fun of the morning walk is marred but one has to live life compromising since we are not kings. I found the recourse to going out into the chunk of fields which are still intact despite the greedy eyes of the builders for acquiring the piece of land for any price and turn the land into concrete jungle.

Secondly, i go to walk into the river bed of Ghaggar river which in winter and summer is dry and occupied by tall grass and thorny shrubs. Many beautiful birds inhabit the water and the grasses. There are water wading birds. There are ubiquitous wattled lapwings which makes alarm calls at your approach and begin flying and circling over you. There are green parrot like birds which are very fast.

Anyway, since it has become unbearably hot it is not possible to go out unless you go before the sunrise. So these days, I walk inside our society along the path adjacent to the boundary wall. It is about half a kilometer in perimeter. Here you are distracted by the people who come from all the sides.

One day while walking, I spotted the young owl sitting on the boundary wall near a tree. I took the pictures with mobile camera. Usually other birds are easily scared off and does not allow you to approach near and fly away. I took chance to approach it. It saw me but did not make much effort to fly. It will rotate its head and see through half closed eyes. I could almost touch it. It was very lovely bird.

IMAG1035 IMAG1033 IMAG1049 IMAG1051 IMAG1052

After some rounds, I found it sitting there. On close inspection, I saw one of its parents sitting on the scaffolding of electrical distribution system. It did not allow the approach and flew away as soon the camera was trained on it. Then I spotted another one sitting on a neem tree outside the boundary. Whole family was there.

Outside is the fallow land with bushes and grass. Nearby are dense woods where peacocks roam making the calls. These owls must have found their prey like small rodents or others small birds here.

After that day, I could not find them any day except once.