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Monday, 12 February, 2001, 15:40 GMT
Quake reveals hidden water
Kutch fresh water
Underground water channels uncovered by the quake
By Rajyasri Rao in Delhi

A body of fresh water discovered in the western state of Gujarat may be an ancient branch of Pakistan's famous Indus river.

Recent satellite images have uncovered the underground water channels in a barren area of the state known for its high salinity.

The pictures were taken above the epicentre of last month's earthquake, in the Rann of Kutch region.

A leading Indian scientist, Janardhan Negi, says it adds weight to the theory that a branch of the Indus still remains in India.

Ancient rivers

Dr Negi told the BBC that the pictures provide ample evidence that old river channels were sprouting back in the Rann of Kutch following last month's earthquake.

Scrambling for water in Kutch
The region is drought-prone
The Rann - which literally means salty desert - is a vast expanse of barren terrain in Gujarat that lies almost entirely uninhabited.

Dr Negi said the region had once been a delta for two famed, ancient rivers.

The Indus is now one of Pakistan's main rivers and flows further west.

The mythical Saraswati river is believed to have flowed about four thousand years ago.

Altered landscape

Dr Negi says that if field tests prove that the water seen in the satellite images is more than 200 years old, it could confirm that a branch of the Indus still flows in India.

He said the Indus used to flow through the region until 1819, when a large earthquake - equal in intensity to the one last month - led to the river changing its course.

There have been enormous changes to the landscape of the region over the past 10,000 years, Dr Negi said, because of repeated earthquakes.

However, an archaeologist with the Archaeological Survey of India, RS Bisht, disagreed with Dr Negi's conclusions.

Mr Bisht has done extensive work in and around Kutch and says that while a branch of the Indus may have run far west of the area, the theory is almost impossible to prove.

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