Adilshahi ways of water storage

The cisterns and water systems put in place by the Adilshahis of Bijapur. “In the name of god ‘Ramalinga’, the great Adilshahis of Deccan built the Ramalinga reservoir but today, this  tank is on the verge of extinction. We will fight for its rejuvenation,” says Peter Alexander, a panel member of Bijapur district public hearing committee and president of Bijapur Vikas Vedike.

From the last two decades, he has been fighting to rejuvenate the historical tanks of Bijapur. The city has magnificent Islamic monuments, but is one of the most drought ridden and backward districts of the state. It has a long history of water scarcity.

In the past, the Adilshahis made Bijapur a model city for reservoirs, water management and distribution systems. It was four centuries ago that they built the world famous monuments, gardens, water pavilions and reservoirs.

Traditional water storage systems

But today, when water has become everybody’s business, we seem to have forgotten the old methods of water harvesting. There is an urgent need to reintroduce the water systems of Adilshahis.

The construction of ponds, tanks or reservoirs, hundreds of wells and water towers, together with water pipes, cisterns and aqueducts show how alive the Adilshahis were to the water scenario. But today, most of the tanks, reservoirs and wells have been encroached upon and polluted.

During the ‘70s and 80s, people here used Taj Bowdi and Chand Bowdi (wells) for drinking water. Today, the Taj Bowdi is polluted and is used as a tank for washing clothes. In 1982, the then deputy commissioner Gore tried to empty the Taj Bowdi and rejuvenate it. But all work was in vain. Today, most of the talabs or tanks are encroached upon for agricultural and housing purposes.

Bijapur, if historical records are to be believed, had a population of nearly 20 lakh four centuries ago. Today there are only three lakh people in the city. But a lack of  technical and traditional knowhow about water management has meant that life in Bijapur has become a nightmare. But activists like Peter Alexander have not given up.

They have ensured that the government wakes up to the situation. It has sanctioned Rs 3.5 crore to de-silt the Begum talab and rejuvenate it for drinking water purposes.

Begum talab is so huge that it accounts for 300 acres, and could supply water to the city all year round if it filled up once. Apart from supplying drinking water, it also provided water to the immunerable fountains in the royal buildings and gardens. Today this talab is filled with silt around 30 to 40 feet. At present there are around 20 water gunjs (cisterns) each 30 feet deep.

Another neglected reservoir is Ramalinga tank, which has been encroached upon, and people have started using it for housing and agricultural purposes.

‘Save the Ramalinga tank’

There is not a single drop of water in the 500-acre Ramalinga tank, whose jack well is still in a very good condition. Water from the tank is meant to directly flow to the Bhoothnal tank, which is providing drinking water to the city at present. Though the Ramalinga tank belongs to the Archeological Survey of India, there are no proper land survey records.

Members of the Bijapur Vikasa Vedike have filed a writ petition and a public interest litigation to revive the tank.

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