THE GAME CHANGER
COMMUNITY MOBILISER SHIRISH APTE, MAHARASHTRA
Shirish Apte, superintendent engineer, Maharashtra water resources department, has always been proud of the heritage of malgujar tanks in his native district Bhandara. His interest in them became more than merely academic when he was posted in Bhandara as an executive engineer in 2008.
“I was posted in Bhandara to complete a World Bank project by 2013,” says Apte. “I decided to utilise this opportunity to rejuvenate the malgujar tanks.” In existence for over 300 years, the tanks were not being maintained because of a dispute between the state government and the owners over ownership. These tanks were once a major water source for the district, but due to neglect, water levels had fallen.
Apte galvanised the government system first. He got permission from his seniors to use department machinery for digging. They also sanctioned expenditure for the diesel required. Then, Apte mobilised villagers to help. He chose a tank at Jambhora, a village of 400 households. Within a year, the water level of the tank increased by almost two metres. It also led to an increase in the water level in the village well. Nearby villages followed suit after the successful experiment. The state government controls 25 malgujar tanks in Bhandara. Out of them, 22 had been revived by 2013. After 2013, the zilla parishad also undertook revival of the tanks in its jurisdiction. It has revived 90 tanks so far, apart from the 22 tanks revived by the state government.