Udai Sagar
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Udai Sagar, Rajasthan, India

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One of beautiful Udaipur's famous man-made lakes, Udai Sagar is likely one of the least visited by tourists. Udaipur, in the Mewar region of the Indian state of Rajasthan, is well-known for the many lakes built by the former ruling class. Udai Sager was one of the first built in the area for water storage when Maharana Udai Singh II completed it in 1565. Expecting war, the maharana wanted to assure the city a secure water supply. Using stone from other embankments, or bunds, he dammed the Berach River to form the 2600-acre lake.

The maharana was apparently correct in anticipating war, as the lake was the site of two specific incidents affecting the security of the area. In 1573, Kunwar Man Singh commanded Maharana Pratap Singh I to meet him on the Udai Sagar embankment to discuss surrendering to Mughal Emperor Akbar; Pratap refused the invitation and insulted the Rajput traitor. This led to the Battle of Haldighati in June of 1576. And it was near Udai Sagar that Maharana Raj Singh (1653-1680) defeated the army of Emperor Aurangzeb. A memorial to Maharana Pratap stands on a hill above Fateh Sagar Lake in Udaipur. Now no longer used for city water supply, Udai Sagar is used for local village water, irrigation, recreation and, increasingly, to facilitate zinc smelting nearby.

Relatively shallow - its deepest point is about 30 feet - Udai Sagar tends to suffer some from fluctuating water levels. Lying at the base of the Aravali Hills, the lake accepts a large part of the run-off from rains. The Aravali Hills are forested and picturesque, making Udai Sagar a scenic delight. Although not graced with the marble temples so often found along Udaipur lakeshores, the lake is still a favorite for recreational boating; visitors can take boat rides provided by local small businesses. Once a productive fishery, Udai Sagar has suffered from a reduction of the native catfish and carp that once populated the waters.

Excess water that could cause flooding is diverted into the Berach River via a channel. Other channels controlled by gates divert negotiated amounts of water to irrigate crops grown locally. No visit to the lakes of Udaipur would be complete without a visit to Udai Sagar when visiting the 'Venice of the East', as Udaipur is called. As Udaipur is the premier 'romance capital' of Rajasthan, it is the chosen destination for weddings, honeymoons and seduction. Udai Sagar lies about eight miles east of the city-center and is well worth a visit.

Udaipur itself has a large number of attractions to interest tourists, filled as it is with temples, palaces and gardens built by the maharanas for their families and royal courts. Many of the palaces have been converted to 'heritage hotels', some with very little architectural alteration other than the installation of necessary modern plumbing. One of the most famous of these is the Lake Palace, completely covering a small island on Lake Pichola. This beautiful white edifice has often been featured in movies and is available only to the well-to-do because of its premium rates. It's a rare visitor to Udaipur who does not at least take a boat tour of Lake Pichola to photograph the gleaming landmark from the water. Boats launch regularly from the docks below the City Palace on the northeast shore. The City Palace itself is a tour-worthy stop: the palace holds a museum featuring artifacts from the life of the royal rulers of Udaipur past.

Boats are one of the most enjoyable ways to visit the many lakes of Udaipur via the canal system. Fateh Sagar Lake is another 'must visit' location in Udaipur. An island on the lake holds the largest solar observatory in Asia, while the Garden of Maids along the embankment is a delight of marble statuary, rain fountains and pavilions built by former kings for the ladies of the royal household. The gardens of the Maharana Pratap Memorial offer a scenic view over the lake and city. Other museums such as the Bhartiya Lok Kala Museum, Ahar Archeological Museum, and Archeological Site and Jagdish Temple really shouldn't be missed. And there are plenty of places to view or buy traditional handicrafts, paintings and sculpture from native craftsmen. Udaipur is the preferred home-base for a visit to the Udai Sagar area and is well-supplied with more affordable heritage hotels, contemporary hotels and 'home-stays'.

Udai Sagar has suffered in recent years from the impact of increased industry and mining. The zinc mines have contributed to pollution from run-off and waste water and have withdrawn huge amounts of water for smelting purposes. Farming has contributed to a problem with sedimentation in the lake. Both of these things have caused less quality water to be available for irrigation and have contributed to well pollution in the area. Pollution has also entered the lake from the Ahar River. Pollution has reduced the number and variety of fish available for harvesting. Fortunately, solutions are being actively implemented to improve water quality and provide for local irrigation needs.

A unique solution has been put into place along the Ahar River to remove pollutants before it reaches Udai Sagar. Called Green Bridge technology, short segments of the river are 'remodeled' using native plants to remove heavy metals and pollutants, while filtering occurs via the strategic use of 'coir' or coconut fiber barriers, gravel and aeration. Within the first month of utilization, water quality within Udai Sagar improved, while wells in the area showed less contamination. Stronger efforts at enforcement are reducing both run-off from zinc mine operations and the dumping of marble slurry, a by-product of marble quarrying which adds to sedimentation. Remediation efforts at Udai Sagar are developing new, cost-effective methods of water quality improvement that can be used in other locations. Udai Sagar will be much cleaner in the near future.

Visits to Udai Sagar are often included in tour itineraries. If not, transportation can be arranged to the lake from Udaipur with little difficulty. Many tours to Jaisamand Lake include a stop at Udai Sagar. As one of the area's earliest public infrastructure projects, Udai Sagar says much about the concern most of the maharanas held for future growth and the well-being of the local population. The lakes are an early example of urban planning with an eye toward aesthetics. They are also a delightfully cool respite in a hot and semi-arid climate. So, plan your visit to Udaipur and make sure to include Udai Sagar.

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