Sunday 10 March 2013

An engineering marvel that is fading

It is generally believed that the attempt to first dam the Arkavathy river at Hesarghatta was made in 1894  and the then Dewan of Mysore State, Seshadri Iyer, is credited with the feat along with the Chief Engineer Hutchins.
However, this is not entirely true. While it can be accepted without hesitation and any doubt that it was in 1894 that the first modern water supply system came into existence, what stands to reason is that this certainly is not the first dam in Hesarghatta.
Way back in 1532 AD, the then Vijayanagar Emperor, Achuta Devaraya had constructed a check dam across the Arkavathy in Hesarghatta. The check dam was built for two reasons-to provide drinking water to the local populace and also to irrigate fields.
Over the centuries, the check dam lost out and by the 19th century, very little of it remained. By then, Bangalore had emerged as a much bigger city and it continued to flourish while Hesarghatta and its neighbourhood went into steady decline.
It was Seshadri Iyer who hit upon the idea of daming the Arkavathy at Hesarghatta and he enlisted the services of Hutchins who designed the reservoir.
The dam and the reservoir was then the most modern water supply system in the then Mysore state and even in south India. Even today, you can see the siphon which only came into play when the reservoir was full. The siphon would empty excess water from the damed structure.
Old timers of Hesarghatta village and even surrounding villages remember the swishing sound that the siphon would make when it scooped out water. The sound could be heard for miles but today it is silent and stands a mute testimony to the engineering skills of the bygone days.
The Hesaraghatta dam had a storage capacity of 997 million cubic feet and used to supply water to Bangalore. The reservoir today  does not have water but the dam still has equipments and engineering instruments that still work. Some of them have rusted and unfortunately, nobody seems to care.
When you came down from the dam, you will find a brick aqueduct giving you company for some time when you travel on the road. This is the very structure that brought water from Hessarghatta to Turubanhalli. Here at Turubanahalli, Hutchins had installed a steam engine imported from the U.K. which lifted water to a reservoir in Jalahalli.
The water would then flow into the jewel filters at Malleswaram and then be piped into Bangalore. The steam engines are still there and the brick aqueduct too is still standing.
The aqueduct that runs from the reservoir spreads across 3,000-odd acres. It is a U-type channel having five layers of bricks, and two layers of granite to prevent seepage or leakage of water.
Why not declare the water works as a heritage construction and make it a tourist attraction. As it is Hesarghatta sees many tourists and people visiting the many institutions around the dry lake.
The birds on the dry lake bed attract hundreds of bird watchers and the nearby Nrithyagram have always pulled in people who love dance. The sole peacock sanctuary of Bangalore is nestled close to the lake.
The Horticulture Research station is worth a visit.
Why not preserve the water works as a standing example of engineering skill

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