Thursday, July 15, 2010

Adi Ganga

Adi Ganga also known as Gobindapur creek, Surman’s Nullah and Tolly’s Nullah, was the main flow of the Hooghly River from the 15th to 17th century but has subsequently virtually dried up.
The earlier course of the lower Ganges as it flowed through the Bhaigirathi channel was somewhat different from what it is in the beginning of the 21st century. At Triveni, near Bandel, it branched into three streams. The Saraswati flowed in a south-westerly direction, past Saptagram. The Jamuna (not the same river as in north India or many streams of that name in eastern Bengal) flowed in a south-easterly direction. The Hooghly flowed in the middle. The Hooghly glided down to around the place where Kolkata now stands and then flowed through the Adi Ganga, past Kalighat, Baruipur and Magra to the sea.
In the 16th century, the main waters of the Bhagirathi, which earlier used to flow through the Saraswati, began to flow through the Hooghly. The upper Saraswati is a dead or dry river and the Hooghly has abandoned the Adi Ganga channel and adopted the lower course of the Saraswati to flow to the sea.
In his Manasamangal, Bipradas Pipilai has described the journey path of Chand Saudagor, the merchant, as going past Chitpur, Betore, Kalighat, Churaghat, Baruipur, Chhatrabhog, Badrikunda, Hathiagarh, Choumukhi, Satamukhi and Sagarsangam. The description of Bipradas Piplai tallies to a large extent with Van den Brouck’s map of 1660.
Some quarters ascribe the virtual drying up of Adi Ganga to its being artificially linked to the lower channel of the Saraswati, whereby that became the main channel for ocean going ships and the Adi Ganga became derelict. This feat is ascribed by some to Nawab Alivardi Khan. Others thinks that there was only a tidal creek connecting the Saraswati and the Hooghly, near the point where the Adi Ganga branched off. It is rumoured that the Dutch traders re-sectioned this tidal creek to let sea-going vessels come up the Bhagirathi.
It was known earlier as Gobindapur Creek and marked the southern boundary of Gobindapur village. It was excavated by Edward Surman and it bore his name for some time. Surman was leader of the eventful embassy to Delhi in 1717. The nullah was deepened by Colonel William Tolly in 1773 and connected to the Circular Canal. Thereafter, it bore his name. In 1775, Col. Tolly connected the Adi Ganga to the Vidyadhari.
Ever since Tolly’s renovation the Adi Ganga remained a navigable river. However, the neglect of waterways in general and other factors such as population pressure and unplanned urbanisation caused further silting of Adi Ganga. It ultimately turned into a sewer channel for the south-western part of Kolkata. The waterway is already gasping for life with the human usurpation of its flowing course. At some places the course has totally dried up.
The Kolkata Metro(underground railway system) stretch from Dum Dum to Tollygunj is a totally underground track, except the two terminal stations. A decision was taken to extend the southern end of the Metro by 8.5 km to Garia. The major difference for this extension is a totally over ground stretch running on an elevated track, quite contrary to the existing underground one. The Tollygunj-Garia section will run over the Adi Ganga. In 2007 the track work has completed and train started to ply. The railway track is laid over a row of concrete pillars on the bed of Adi Ganga. Six out of the seven stations on this new stretch will be elevated stations. Social activists opine that Metro railway’s construction activity will finally sound the death knell of the Adi Ganga.
When me (Biswendu) was working as a investigative journalist in a tv channel, made a series of documentaries and investigative reports how the blocking of channel can create a hell like situation in the monsoon season(till then the work has just started). And I am not happy today seeing my documentation spelling right oracle.
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