The Saraswati river, so far considered mythical, did exist, a government-constituted expert committee has found.
Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said the government will take action on the report, which according to her, "cannot be challenged".
"We have reached a conclusion that river Saraswati existed, it flowed. It originated in the Himalayas and met gulf at the western sea," Professor K S Valdiya, who led the panel, said while handing over the report to the government.
Valdiya, an eminent geologist, said the river passed through Haryana, Rajasthan and North Gujarat, land texture of which was studied by the panel.
According to a senior Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) official, Saraswati passed through Pakistan before meeting Western Sea through Rann of Kutch and was approximately 4,000 km in length.
One-third of the river stretch fell in present-day Pakistan. The longer, two-third stretch measuring nearly 3000 km in length fell in India, the official claimed.
In its report, the seven-member committee has stated that the river had two branches: western and eastern. The Himalayan-born Satluj "of the PAST", which flowed through the channels of present-day Ghaggar-Patialiwali rivulets, represents the western branch of the ancient river.
On the other hand, it said, Markanda and Sarsuti (corruption of Saraswati) represented the western branch of Saraswati, known as Tons-Yamuna.
On his part, Valdiya, a Padma Bhushan awardee, said the committee, during its six-month research, came across "an unique" palaeochannel (a path abandoned by river when it changes its course) relating to present Ghaggar, Sarsuti, Hakra and Nara rivers. Historically, he stated, that around 1700 "small and big" towns and villages were located around the palaeochannel concerned during Harappa Civilisation.
"Some towns were spread over more than 100 hectares. These colonies were there for 5,500 years. Was it possible that these cities could live without water? No. It means that a flowing river provided water to the towns, villages. Which river it was? What was its name? We worked to find it out," Valdiya said.
During its six-month research period, the committee studied piles of sediments, their shapes and features which appeared to have been brought by a "big river" and are reminiscent to ones found in present-day Ghaggar, Ganga and Yamuna.
"At some places, there is 30-ft deep sand layer (in the
palaeochannels), at some places the width of the palaeochannels is five km and is filled with water.
"This suggests that the relatively smaller rivers of today, like Ghaggar and its tributary Dangri, would not have brought such sediment. It must have been brought in by a big, flowing river," he said.
In the report, the committee also observed that constituent minerals of the palaeochannels, at several spots, have come from catchment areas of Sutlej and Yamuna and from Greater and Lesser Himalaya.
"Both the mineral and chemical compositions we studied tell us that the river which flowed through Sarsuti, Ghaggar-Harka had originated in Himalaya. It had two branches: eastern and western. The confluence of the branches was near Shatrana, 25 km south of Patiala. And suddenly, it flows crossing the dessert (Rann of Kutch) and meet gulf of western sea," he added.
Valdiya suggested the name Saraswati was popular among people from Haryana and several structures and bridges in the state were rechristened after it. The state's revenue records also suggest so, he added.
Bharti lauded the committee members as "honest" and their efforts as "serious which cannot be challenged", but stopped short of stating that the report has been accepted by the Ministry.
She said "it will be summarised and discussed" during a convention of experts" the Ministry will organise and also presented to Cabinet.
According to a statement issued by the Ministry later, Bharti said the report is an assertion of assumption that River Saraswati originated from Adibadri in Himalaya to culminate in the Arabian Sea through the Rann of Kutch.
"...This river was once upon a time the lifeline of North-Western states of India and a vibrant series of civilizations from Mahabharat period to Harappa had flourished on the banks of this river," the statement quoted her as saying.
Now there is scientific report that Saraswati river did exist, Bharti said.
The Minister added that the report will be studied by the CGWB as well as experts in the Ministry for its "optimum" use. Bharti said the report will be submitted to the Cabinet also for further action.
"We will see whether we can use water in the palaeochannels to quench thirst of arid areas of Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat. We will also see if it can be recharged artificially? Such an effort will be less expensive than coming up with new projects to provide water there," she said.
The Minister also stated that the government will now prepare summary of the report and hold a convention.
(REOPENS DEL 65)
Stating the water held by palaeochannels in the region amounts to billions of cubic metre and is free of pollution, Valdiya urged the government to come out with strict laws to regulate extraction of water from palaeochannels in arid regions "from where the river used to flow".
He also appealed to Bharti to launch missions to develop systematic database of all surface maps of palaeochannels, to ensure aquifer delineation and development and to recharge palaeochannels.
The report also recommended Union Water Resources Ministry to regard as "prized heritages" of tremendous importance the rivers carrying life-supporting water and the cultural creations located along their banks.
It also suggested the government to form a cell within CGWB to handle activities mentioned in the above mission.