A 700 metre long and 34 metre high earth-fill dam has been constructed on Kaushalya, a tributary of Ghaggar river by the Haryana Government at a cost of Rs. 217 crores. The dam is located at Pinjore, in the foothills of Morni and is expected to check flash floods during monsoons and also supply 40 cusecs*/ 25 MGD (million gallons per day) of raw water to Panchkula city.The dam has a catchment area of around 75 square kilometres. A lake has been created upstream of the dam that is expected to recharge the ground water and attract bird life.
*40 cusecs during filling period (July-September) and 18 cusecs during lean period (September-July).
A dam on Ghaggar was first conceived by the British in the mid 19th century to supply water to Ambala Cantonment. The idea was revived in 1960s with the plan to build a large dam on Ghaggar at Gumthala, near Chandimandir that would supply water to Chandigarh and control floods in downstream areas of Punjab. This plan was finally shelved in 1999 as it involved submergence of over 4000 acres of land with the resultant dislocation of a large number of people. The idea of building smaller dams on the tributaries was then mooted and the construction of the Kaushalya dam started in 2008.
Interestingly, Ghaggar water was initially associated with the high prevalence of goitre and disease of the spleen as also fever and poor health. Mr. Bateson, Civil Surgeon, Ambala toured the area of Mani Majra and the villages around it in 1868 and concluded in his report to the Deputy Commissioner Captain Tigre that there was some correlation of dependence on Ghaggar waters with the incidence of these diseases. The ilaqa of Manimajra included the town and 69 villages that drew water from the Ghaggar through irrigation channels called ‘kuls’. The people, however, drank water drawn from wells as the river water was not to be trusted. Mr. Bateson toured Mowli, Pabhat, Abehpur, Barra Firozpur, Dara and Chandi apart from the Manimajra town. The people of Barra Firozpur who relied almost completely on Ghaggar water for drinking purpose were the most unhealthy with large incidence of goitre and deaths due to ‘fevers’, especially during the rains.
A.C.C. Renzy, Esquire, Sanitary Commissioner Punjab, however, rubbished the conclusions drawn by Mr. Bateson and attributed the disease to ‘contamination’ of the Ghaggar water with the drainage from the rice fields and other impurities as it ran through the ‘kuls’ (irrigation channels). The mineral composition of surface-soil and sub-soil of Manimajra area was believed to be causing the high incidence of goitre.
In fact, the incidence of goitre was so high in the adjoining area of Pinjore, that in one of the sieges of the Pinjore fort, the besieged army paraded a number of unhealthy women with gortesque swollen throats on the fort walls to scare off the aggressors! As per folklore, the Raja of Sirmaur scared off Nawab Fidai Khan, the architect of Pinjore Garden and the foster brother of Aurangzeb by presenting some goitre-inflicted women to the Nawab who wanted to be introduced to Rajah’s harem!!
- Report on the Sanitary Administration of the Punjab; 1869