The story of what was christened by the late Dr Salim Ali, India’s pioneer ornithologist, as ‘Flamingo city’ after he visited the region in 1945, is believed to have begun with a massive earthquake in 1819, whose magnitude on the Richter scale was estimated at 7.9, and by some accounts, was felt as far as Calcutta (now Kolkata). The earthquake created what is known as the Allah Bund in the north of the Great Rann, a ridge that rises up to six metres in some places and stretches for more than 80 km from west to east, blocking the flow of northern rivers and buckling, like a table cloth, the Rann’s western terrain, causing the inundation, by a mix of salt and fresh water, of almost the whole region during the cold months that follow the monsoon.
Flamingo city, like the Rann, was sculpted by a natural force — an earthquake. Locals say it was created by Allah. “That’s how Allah Bund got its name,” said Vijay Kumar of the Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology in Bhuj, who has studied the Rann’s corrosive personality for more than a decade, particularly the way it degrades what little vegetation is left in patches. The bunding helped create a vast seasonal lagoon which turns into a salt desert that shimmers white once the water evaporates. In the
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