Reviving Heritage to Recharge Economy & Ecology

Jal Mahal gets it Glory back, 310 Acre Mansagar Lake restored, Rs 500 Cr worth of Hospitality facilities in 100 acres to boost tourism and business

Introduction:

In today's world, governments and business alike are faced with twin challenge of development and profit on one hand and environment conservation on the other. All agree that sustainable development is vitally desired goal but how to achieve it is a crucial question. There are no quick fixes to Solutions must involve a commitment to understand ground conditions, patient efforts at conservation, , constant innovation and effective local participation.

One such experiment in sustainable development and business generation is underway in Jaipur, India. This unique project involves environment conservation, heritage restoration and tourism development all rolled into one. Jaipur, "The Pink City" has witnessed a steady decline in its famed water bodies in the last quarter of the 20th century. Ramgarh lake and Talkatora lake are dust bowls and in danger of being run over by the relentless march of the urban jungle. The third lake – Mansagar, with its legendary Jalmahal (Water palace) – was also on itsway to meet the same fate when the state government invited private participation to restore it to its pristine glory.

In Brief

The Mansagar Lake is a 310-acre lake surrounded by the Nahargarh hills. The artificial lake was formed as a result of constructing a dam across river Darbhawati during the 18th century. It is today the only significant water body in the city of Jaipur. Jal Mahal, an architectural monument, is situated in the midst of MansagarLake. The lake is approximately 310 acres in its full spread. The lake has been a natural habitat for more than 150 species of local and migratory birds. Water provides sustainable living to countless species of the aquatic ecosystem like fish, birds, insects, microorganisms and aquatic vegetation.

Until three years ago the lake suffered from serious problems of siltation and settled deposits, contamination from inflow of sewage and storm runoff, decrease in surface area due to artificial land formation as a result of eutrophication and loss of water due to the outflow for downstream irrigation during summer. Most of the sewage flowed to the lake body untreated and hence there was severe contamination not only of the lake itself, but also of the ground water around the lake. This contamination made the ground water unfit for drinking and in addition resulted in a serious health hazard. Moreover, when the rainwater mingled with the polluted water in the lake the stench was unbearable. The lake had BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) of 150 mg/l.

In the past, several attempts were made by Government of Rajasthan to restore the ecological and environmental condition of the lake and its adjoining area. However, none of these attempts yielded any positive result because of paucity of funds and non-incentivised approach to take up restoration. The state of Rajasthan is one of the fore runners in this and back in 1994 the state partnered with (IL & FS), a company promoted by Central Bank of India, Housing Development Financial Corporation and Unit Trust of India all being undertaking of the Government of India form a company called PDCOR.

The solution which emerged involved private sector participation in sustainable development of the project area, in a public-private partnership in 2002 MOEF, Government of India approved theproject sent by PDCOR and also sanctioned Rs. 24.72 Crores for the restoration under the National River Conservation Program (NRCP). The Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) was appointed as the nodal agency for lake restoration part of the project. Being the highest bidder lease agreement for development of land development of land adjacent to Mansagar Lake and license agreement for restoration of Jal Mahal Monument between Government of Rajasthan and JMRPL. The possession of the project land was given to JMRPL on 4.4.2006.

From 2008 onwards, three wetlands with a total area of 40,000sqmhave been constructed in the vicinity of Jal Mahal (Mansagar Lake) to facilitate continuous supply of clean water to the Mansagar Lake. The sewage water, which had flown directly into the lake, is now being diverted into these wetlands. Algae and water hyacinth have been jntroduced into the wetlands to absorb the toxic elements. Clean water is now flowing into the Mansagar Lake, its BOD (BiochemicalOxygen Demand) has come down from 150 mg/l to 10-15 mg/l.

Salient features:
  • The Jal Mahal project consists of a total of f 100 acres of land, undertaken as a joint venture between KGK Consortium of KGK and Kalpataru Group, and Jaipur
  • Development Authority, Government of Rajasthan.
  • The project includes restoration of the lake, restoration of the monument and tourism activities.
  • The area dedicated for public will have a water front pedestrian walk way with 20-odd restaurants (food items will range from Rs 50-500).
  • There will be a crafts bazaar with souvenir shops and high-end craft retail from across India.
  • An amphitheatre for daily cultural activities,
  • A model ethnic village on the lines of immensely popular Chokhi Dhani
  • Boat jetties to take visitors to Jal Mahal. This section will also be an entertainment zone.
  • The other part will have mid-market hotels with a convention centre to handle 2,000 people
  • A luxury resort and spa, with a back-to-nature theme, different from what is currently on offer in Jaipur. It will also help augment the room shortage in Jaipur.
  • The development on the 100 acres area should be completed and ready to us within 2-3 years.
  • The restoration of Jal Mahal and the cleaning of the lake is on.
  • Car parking. A 1,500-capacity car park is being created on 12 acres in the campus.
  • 87% of the 100 acre land shall be kept open and green.
  • Plan Expenditure Rs 500 crore.

LAKE RESTORATION

The 310 acre lake is a rain fed water body that would dry up during the summers. For the last several decades it was the site into which Jaipur's two biggest drains (nalas) - Brahmpuri and Nagtalai - were emptying their polluted water.

Initial reports suggested that the drain water was extremely polluted and had a BOD of 150 mg/l (globally accepted norm is 3 mg/l). During the research about how to treat the drain water, it was discovered that the monsoon run off from the catchment area was much more polluted than expected. The run off after initial showers had a BOD level of 800 to 850. Experts suggested the first task was to stop the drain water from directly entering into the lake. Also the lake had to be deepened and rid of years of siltation.

A twin pronged strategy was adopted of dredging the lake bed and creating a new channel to divert the two main sewer drainages. In the process the river bed belched out two million tonnes of mud that was later used to create embankments within the lake. The depth of what had been a one and a half metre deep lake was increased to more than three metres. Meanwhile, a one and a half kilometre channel was created to divert the drains. At the east end of the lake, a seven metre deep sedimentation basin was created. the new channel carrying storm water and sewage from both the drains emptied into this basin.

This wide and deep depression was created to slow the high velocity flow of the drainage. At the end of the depression a bund was created using boulders, sand and excavated mud.The untreated waste now passes through this first basin and then into two more chambers with bunds that have vegetation on them. The vegetation cleans the water and by the timeit enters the lake its BOD has droppedto 10-15 mg/l. Though far from being fit for human consumption, the water has become cleanenough to sustain a healthy population of aquatic flora and fauna.This has renewed the aquatic ecosystem and has attracted hordes of bird species. Cormorants, grey heron, white browed wagtail, blue tailed bee eaters are a common sight now.

The lake that would dry up during the summers has been full of water for the last two years even when the city received below normal rainfall. Herald Kraft,the German expert working for the project, suggested that the one and a half metre existing depth of the lakewas soshallow that it posed a problem in a place as hot and arid as Rajasthan, although it wouldn't have been a problem in a cold European country.. Intense heat can evaporate the shallow lake.Consequently, the lake was dredged extensively,and an optimum depth of three metres was created, which will preserve the lake's water despite the oppressive heat of Rajasthan. in addition, two sewage treatment plants also now work continuouslyto treat seven million gallons of water that is poured into the lake every day to compensate for the evaporation.

NEGLECTED MONUMENT NOW WORLD CLASS ARCHITECTURAL WONDER

BBC's series "Around the world in 80 gardens" featured Jalmahal's restoration as the only new historical style garden in the making in India. The dilapidated monument was a favourite haunt of the anti social elements till a few years ago. In 1971 the Archaeological Survey of India had removed it from its list of historical monuments and even the locals had little knowledge of the history of this lake palace. The general perception was it belonged to the royals. Now the palace has been restored to its princely glory.

When the restoration work began there was no historical record to suggest how the palace looked in its original state,as it appears to have been in ruins even in 140 year-old pictures. But with the help of historians like Giles Tillotson and Vibhuti Sachdeva a template was created and the work began. Tillotson and wife Vibhuti have spent their entire life in restoration of monuments in Rajasthan. The man who brought life back to the monument is Mohanji, master craftsman, who has been a custodian of all the traditional construction methodologies of the palace. He comes from the family of craftsmen who have served the royalty down the ages.

The construction material for restoration of the monument are traditional. The plaster used is prepared with help of traditional methods - a mix of lime, sand and surkhi(burnt clay) along with a mixture of jaggery, guggal and methi powder. As the name Jal Mahal suggests, a part of the monument is submerged under water at all times. A thorough check was done whether water was seeping up with the stone or not. There is only a little bit of dampness in the plaster to a level. Restoration expert Kavita Jain, associated with the project spent thousands of hours on right materials to be used in the restoration work.

As the original garden is lost, the landscaping is being done with the help of available records in the Amber fort and paintings. Heritage garden expert and anthropologist, Mitc, is full of remorse as the original plan of the palace is lost to antiquity yet he has used various references from AmberPalace, CityPalace and other havelis of the same era. The ChameliBagh has a pattern which has been picked up from Amber. The garden has been recreated inmarble.

THE REVIVAL TRADITIONAL DECORATIVE ARTS AT JAL MAHAL

Surrounding the dramatic white marble garden are the proud chhatris and elegant tibaris of Jal Mahal, now displaying the finest examples of Jaipur's traditional decorative arts, in keeping with its royal past. A gathering of master artisans have been working for more than a year to create a remarkable series of unique interiors, on the upper terrace which, when completed, will highlight the best of contemporary Jaipur art and craft.

The Anand Mahal Tibari is the most opulent at Jal Mahal. Its graceful floral motifs in red, blue and gold are inspired by the intricate decorative work seen at the Sileh Khana in Jaipur City Palace, while the panels echo the delicate carved marble reliefs at Amber Fort.

The Raas Niwas Tibari reveals magical frescoes depicting Krishna Maharaas in a wooded grove, a well-known theme in Rajasthani painting, and inspired by the frescoes from the Pritam Niwas Chowk at Jaipur City Palace. In the corners are images of local fruit trees and on the four sides are Jaipur's most celebrated landmarks. The Gulabi Tibari will feature festive pink and white decorative stucco inspired by the Sarvatobhadra Pavilion in Jaipur City Palace.

The Badal Mahal, with its dark clouds swirling across the ceiling, raindrops patterning the walls and lily pools blossoming in the panels, will bring all the colours of the Monsoon to life.

When completed, the interiors of the four Chhatri Burjes located on each corner of the upper terrace of the Jal Mahal will each have a theme based on traditional Jaipur designs. The Chini Burj will feature the rare technique of blue glazed finish, unique to Jaipur. The only complete surviving example from the past is in Jaipur City Palace. The Pitli Burj will use the complex techniques of Jaipuri brass work such as embossing, cutting, enamelling, and filigree and is dedicated to the Hindu sun god Surya. The Aina Burj will draw its inspiration from the glittering mirrorwork in Amer, while the Shobha Burj will reflect the opulent jewelled interior of the Shobha Niwas in Jaipur City Palace.

PAINTED PLEASURE: AN EXCITING EXHIBITION REVEALING THE BEST OF JAIPUR'S ARTISTIC HERITAGE

To commemorate the opening of Jal Mahal and provide a showcase for Jaipur's talented artists, Jal Mahal Resorts is proud to present Painted Pleasures: Water, Gardens & Festivals in Courtly Rajasthan, a dazzling exhibition that brings together Jaipur's leading artists and craftspersons for the first time.

It's a colourful, engaging, multi-media event which takes guests on a journey where past and present meet in a dynamic celebration of Rajasthan's artistic traditions, as seen through centuries of royal patronage.

The exhibition is revealed in a series of five themed and features a specially commissioned 34-foot long painted mural of the Jal Mahal and its surrounding landscape at the onset of the Monsoon.

LEGAL ACTIVISM AGAINST PROJECT

Between 2010 and 2011 three Civil Writ (PIL) Petitions were filed by Prof. K. P. Sharma, DharoharBachaoSamiti and Heritage Preservation Society to quash and set aside the Mansagar Lake Lease Agreement dated 22nd November, 2005 which gave 100 acres of land on lease for a period of 99 years to JalMahal Resorts Private Limited . Petitions have also been made to direct JalMahal Resorts Private Limited to restore the original conditions of 100 acres of land by removing the soil filled-in by it at its own cost and to hand over the possession to the Municipal Corporation, Jaipur; to immediately remove all sedimentation and settling tanks from the Mansagar Lake basin at its own costs; to restore position of Nagtalai and BrahampuriNalah (Drains) to their original position as realigned by RUIDP under Mansagar Lake Restoration Plan.

In May 2012 the High Court of Rajasthan bench of Mahesh Bhagwati and Arun Mishra cancelled 99-year lease for 100 acres of land with historical JalMahal on it within the 16th century Man Sagar Lake, given by the state government to a private firm to develop tourist resort there. A division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Mahesh Bhagwati revoked the state government's 2005 order saying that the government had no right to lease out the public property and it violated all norms in leasing it out.

While cancelling the lease agreement for executing 'JalMahal Project,' the court also revoked the government's order to give heritage monument JalMahal, located in the middle of the picturesque lake, on a license to the 'JalMahal Resorts Pvt Ltd' and directed the government to take possession of the land and the monument with immediate effect. The court's order came on a plea by an advocate Bhatwat Gaur, who through his counsel A K Jain, had alleged that the government had given the land on throwaway price of Rs 2.5 crore per annum to the firm.

The court also directed the government to remove all construction raised at the site by the developer and recover its cost from it. The public land adjoining Man Sagar Lake was handed over on lease for 99 years by Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation to the highest bidder for developing tourist facilities around the lake. The deal got mired in controversy when objections were raised as to how the government land could be leased out for 99 years instead of 30 years, which was akin to selling it. Gaur had lodged criminal complaints against the then RTDC officials and later filed petition in the high court in May 2010 after forming a society in the year 2010 itself in the name of Dharohar Bachao Samittee. The government land initially belonged to Jaipur Development Authority, but had been transferred to the RTDC, and RTDC leased it to to the private firm for the construction of resorts and developing other infrastructure for a fee of Rs 2.5 crore per year.

RELIEF FROM SUPREME COURT

The JalMahal Resorts Pvt Ltd that was to lose the lease after the Rajasthan High Court declared the agreement illegal, filed a special leave petition (SLP) before the apex court, challenging the High Court verdict passed on May 17. The SLP was mentioned before a division bench of Justice Deepak Verma and Justice S J Mukhopadhaya. After issuing notices to respondent K. P. Sharma and others, the Honourable Supreme Court stayed the Rajasthan High Court judgment that cancelled the lease of 100-acre land near Mansagar Lake, Jaipur to a private company to develop tourist facilities. The division bench, however, restrained the private company from undertaking any fresh construction at the site except for carrying out restoration and renovation of the monument.

BOD: "Biochemical Oxygen Demand" is a measure of the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by organisms in water to break down the organic material present, and therefore has become a widely used measure of the level of organic pollution in bodies of water. Efficiently treated municipal sewage would have a BOD of 20 mg/L or less; untreated sewage varies, but averages ~600 mg/L in Europe and as low as 200 mg/L in the U.S., [q.v., US Environmental Protection Agency]) and TN of ~20 mg/l. (Total Nitrogen (TN) is the sum of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N), nitrite-nitrogen (NO2-N), ammonia-nitrogen (NH3-N) and organically bonded nitrogen, and is sometimes used as an effluent measure for municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants; an acceptable range of total nitrogen is 2 mg/L to 6 mg/L. [q.v., US Environmental Protection Agency]

For further information please contact: Rajeev Lunkad +919829229602