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The Disappearing Rudrasagar Lake

April 2, 2018
disapearing rudrasagar lake-neermahal-palace-tripura-india-ramsar-danger

The Neermahal Palace on the Rudrasagar Lake (By Chandrakant Sarkar via Wikipedia.com)

Courtesy a fun election campaign, followed by some people gently pushing over certain statues, Tripura is known to many these days. Away from it all though, away from the poll promises, away from the rallies, and away from the post-election irrelevance, there are some issues in the state which could actually use some attention. The disappearing Rudrasagar Lake, for one.

The King & His Palace

Before its accession to India, Tripura was ruled as a kingdom. The last king of this state (the one who stepped down, and let his kingdom peacefully become a part of India), Maharaja Bir Bikram, was involved in many projects, and has even been said to be responsible for the start of modern infrastructure in the state. Among one of this was the Neermahal Palace, located in the waters of the Rudrasagar Lake, built in 1930.

A palace on the waters of a lake. Though the official Tripura tourism site says the Maharaja built “his summer residence being inspired by Mughal style of architecture”, the more obvious inspirations seem to be Udaipur’s Jag Niwas (built in the late 18th century) & Jaipur’s Jal Mahal (also from the same time period). Anyways…

The palace has been embroiled in an ownership dispute, with both the former royal family & the state claiming rights over it. Finally, in 2015, ownership of the palace shifted to the erstwhile royal family – the irony being that in 2013, the state government had announced its plans to restore both the palace & lake. As early as 2007, Down To Earth had called for urgent action to restore the disappearing Rudrasagar lake, citing threats from:

  1. Heavy siltation
  2. Pollution by brick kilns in the vicinity
  3. Massive population growth around the lake
  4. Use of large amounts of lake water for agriculture

As of 2018, we are still waiting for a change.

1995

 

disapearing rudrasagar lake-neermahal-palace-tripura-india-ramsar-danger

Rudrasagar Lake (1995)

Satellite: Landsat 5

Date: 21 Jan 1995

Image Identifier: LT51370441995021ISP00

This is the lake, with the band combination selected as NDWI. Please note: this band has been reported to OVERESTIMATE the extent of water bodies. Why did we choose this over the band we took for Kodikal? There seemed to be some problem with the Index Stack band in this area. In any case, all images are purely for demonstrative purposes.

 

2011

 

disapearing rudrasagar lake-neermahal-palace-tripura-india-ramsar-danger

Rudrasagar Lake (2011)

Satellite: Landsat 5.

Date: 26 Jan 2011

Image Identifier: LT51360442011026BKT00

16 years later, the lake seems to have shrunken badly. The same satellite, and the same combination.

 

2013

 

disappearing rudrasagar lake-neermahal-palace-tripura-india-ramsar-danger

Rudrasagr Lake (2013)

Satellite: Landsat 8

Date: 17 Dec 2013

Image Identifier:LC81360442013351LGN00

The Landsat 5 went out of service in June 2013. From this image from another satellite, we see that the lake is still shrinking, especially in the north. Also note: the government announced that it would start restoration in 2013.

 

2018

 

disappearing rudrasagar lake-neermahal-palace-tripura-india-ramsar-danger

Rudrasagar Lake (29 Jan 2018)

Satellite: Landsat 8

Date: 29 Jan 2018

Image Identifier: LC08_L1TP_136044_20180129_20180207_01_T1

Still shrinking. Restoration either didn’t happen or did not work. Just to be sure, let’s check with another satellite?

 

disappearing rudrasagar lake-neermahal-palace-tripura-india-ramsar-danger

Rudrasagar Lake (22 Jan 2018)

Satellite: Sentinel 2

Date: 22 Jan 2018

Image Identifier: S2B_tile_20180122_46QCM_0

Doesn’t completely match with the image above, though they are  separated by a duration of 7 days. One last look?

 

disappearing rudrasagar lake-neermahal-palace-tripura-india-ramsar-danger

Rudrasagar Lake (Feb 2018)

Satellite: Landsat 8

Date: 21 Feb 2018

Oh.

 

Incidentally, the lake is also recognized as a Ramsar wetland site, under the Ramsar Convention; it is an international recognition, which is a pretty much big deal. Let’s hope someone saves the disappearing Rudrasagar lake, before its too late.

All images sourced from the open-access online tool EOS Landviewer. You can also look at the similar story of an unnamed stream in Kodikal, Karnataka.


About the author: Hitesh Shetty
Dreams of writing a bestseller and changing the world. When awake, tries to figure out how to do both.

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