Peo­ple take charge

Bil­lion litres

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gan­ised by non-profits Paani Foun­da­tion, Wa­ter­shed Or­gan­i­sa­tion Trust, and SparshCen­tre for Par­tic­i­pa­tory Learn­ing.

“We learnt to read contour maps, and dif­fer­ent types of struc­tures to har­vest rain­wa­ter and how much wa­ter those struc­tures can hold. For in­stance, on heavy slopes, deep cct (con­tin­u­ous contour trench) has to be dug to break the speed of wa­ter and also ar­rest soil ero­sion. On nul­lahs, a se­ries of loose boul­der struc­tures are ben­e­fi­cial,” says Pankaj Katkar, who at­tended the train­ing pro­gramme.

The five then trained 88 Ki­rak­sal res­i­dents and drew up a wa­ter­shed man­age­ment plan, with the sup­port of the non­prof­its. “We have formed 25 groups of 10-15 res­i­dents each and di­vided the wa­ter­shed works among our­selves,” says Savita Jadhav, leader of one of these groups. Three more groups have been formed by trained young­sters to check the struc­tures and mea­sure them ev­ery evening. “Poor work can wash away the struc­tures in just one rain­fall,” says Jadhav.

As per the plan, the res­i­dents will con­struct 300 loose boul­der struc­tures, 2,000 cum (cu­bic me­tre) of contour bund­ing, 3,000 cum of com­part­ment bund­ing, five ce­ment bunds, 10,000 cum of deep cct and eight large farm ponds be­fore the on­set of south­west mon­soons to har­vest rain­wa­ter. On April 22, when this re­porter vis­ited Ki­rak­sal, the res­i­dents had com­pleted 100 loose boul­der struc­tures, 500 cum of contour bund­ing, 1,000 cum of com­part­ment bund­ing, and 50 cum of cct.

In mone­tary terms, the shram­dan trans­lates into work worth `25-30 lakh, and should save wa­ter worth ` 90 lakh in a year (a 10,000 litres wa­ter tanker costs the govern­ment `2,000), says Amol. “We are con­fi­dent that next year on­wards we won’t have to re­quest the tehsil­dar for wa­ter tankers in the summer months,” says Ki­rak­sal res­i­dent Ud­dhav Katkar.

Ki­rak­sal is not the only vil­lage in the state to have adopted rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing and wa­ter­shed de­vel­op­ment. This year, more than 1,300 villages in 13 dis­tricts in Ma­ha­rash­tra have un­der­taken wa­ter­shed man­age­ment works to drought-proof their villages. In Fe­bru­ary and March, res­i­dents from over 5,000 villages across the state par­tic­i­pated in the four-day train­ing that Amol at­tended. “We all want to be­come paanidar (wa­ter suf­fi­cient) villages,” says Amol. Res­i­dents of the villages say they are draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the 116 villages that last year cre­ated de­cen­tralised wa­ter storage ca­pac­ity of 13.68 bil­lion litres, which is equal to 1.4 mil­lion tankers of wa­ter, and can store wa­ter worth `272 crore.

Velu vil­lage in Kore­gaon taluka of Satara, about 50 km from Ki­rak­sal, is one of the villages that ex­per­i­mented with the shram­dan model last year. Till last summer, the 341 fam­i­lies in the vil­lage were fac­ing acute wa­ter cri­sis. All wells in the vil­lage would nor­mally run dry by Jan­uary ev­ery year and the vil­lage would sur­vive the sum­mers on wa­ter tankers. So the res­i­dents con­structed wa­ter har­vest­ing struc­tures be­tween April and May 2016, and this helped them save 2.82 bil­lion litres of wa­ter last year. “This is the first summer when we have not called for a wa­ter tanker,” says Velu res­i­dent Nav­nath Bhosle.

Failed to act

The peo­ple’s move­ment offers hope to many villages in the state that have been reel­ing from se­vere droughts in the past few years. This has crip­pled the farm sec­tor and ru­ral econ­omy. As per the Na­tional Crime Records Bureau, Ma­ha­rash­tra tops the coun­try in farmer sui­cides. In 2015, more than 3,000 farm­ers in the state com­mit­ted sui­cide, which is 37.8 per cent of the to­tal farmer sui­cides in In­dia that year.

Even the Ja­lyukt Shivar Ab­hiyaan, the state govern­ment’s lone scheme that plans to drought-proof all villages by 2019, is mov­ing at a slow pace. For in­stance, against a to­tal of 186,107 planned works, only 39 per cent were com­pleted by March 25 this year. The scheme, launched in 2014, is plagued with other prob­lems as well. Works un­der­taken at villages do not follow the ridge-to-val­ley ap­proach, and are ad-hoc and un­sci­en­tific, says H M De­sarda, econ­o­mist and for­mer mem­ber of the Ma­ha­rash­tra State Plan­ning Board.

The govern­ment pro­gramme fo­cuses on chas­ing an­nual tar­gets and favours the con­trac­tors. “There is no or lit­tle ca­pac­ity The drought-prone villages where res­i­dents are un­der­tak­ing wa­ter­shed works span 13 dis­tricts (shaded)

MA­HA­RASH­TRA

13.68

In 2017

5,000

Villages where res­i­dents have un­der­taken wa­ter­shed man­age­ment train­ing

1,300

Villages where res­i­dents are vol­un­tar­ily build­ing rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing struc­tures

In 2016

116

Villages where res­i­dents vol­un­tar­ily built rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing struc­tures De­cen­tralised wa­ter storage ca­pac­ity built in the 116 villages build­ing. Vil­lage res­i­dents are not trained in wa­ter­shed man­age­ment, hence they fail to ques­tion poor works car­ried out by the con­trac­tors,” says Aaba Lad, a farmer in Kore­gaon taluka, Satara.

Him­mat Rao Kha­rade, deputy col­lec­tor of Satara, says there are lim­i­ta­tions on fund­ing and the num­ber of villages to be cov­ered in one year. “In 2016-17, we se­lected 25 villages of Kore­gaon taluka un­der Ja­lyukt Shivar Ab­hiyaan. This fi­nan­cial year, we have cho­sen 30. At this rate, it would take over five to six years to cover one taluka,” says Kha­rade. Peo­ple’s move­ment can trans­form ru­ral land­scape at a faster pace, he adds.

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