Dams · Water

World Water Day 2020: Positive Stories from Rural India

The theme for the World Water Day 2020 is ‘Water and Climate Change’. The changing climate has disrupted the water cycle in a number of ways.

The rural areas in India have facing increasing water crisis due to mismanagement, top down government projects, unequal distribution of available resources and now also climate change. However there are several individuals, groups and government initiatives that have led improvement in the situation. We have presented positive water stories from farmers and urban India in earlier WWD 2020 articles. This last compilation in the series presents the positive water actions reported from different rural areas of country in past one year, beginning with top five positive water stories.  

Top Five Positive Water Stories

W Bengal A restored forest that restored lives Villagers in Purulia were suffering from a groundwater crisis till two decades ago. They found a solution to their woes & have grown a lush green forest on a barren mountain which has reduced their problems & made the place biodiversity-rich.  https://india.mongabay.com/2020/01/the-story-of-a-restored-forest-that-restored-lives/  (27 Jan. 2020)

Maharashtra Engineer helps village save water He may be a resident of California’s Santa Clara with a lucrative annual package as the Director of Engineering for Yahoo USA, but Halgara (Six kilometres away from the Maharashtra-Karnataka border lies the tiny village of Halgara in Latur district) remain close to his heart. Due to this young man the drought-hit village embarked on the path of becoming jalyukt or drought-free in the last three years.

Building new low cost Gabion check dam – built at 1/10th cost compared to government estimate. The Better India

Datta returned to Halgara with his family and spent almost three lakh rupees from his pocket to start the watershed activities. His idea was simple. To preserve every drop of rainfall in his village by helping it seep into the ground and recharge the groundwater table, rather than allowing it to run off. The first step was desilting the 20 km canals in Halgara. It was only when the silt covering the riverbeds was cleared, that the water seeped into the ground below.

“Even if we manage to ensure that 30 per cent of this water (that runs off from the rivers) recharges groundwater, we can bring over 50 per cent of Indian agricultural land under the secure water zone,” says Datta. They also used about 1,500 ha of farmland to create compartment bunds to store water during the monsoon. The impact of the project is visible in how the groundwater level of Halgara, which was previously at a depth of 800 ft has now risen to 100 ft. https://www.thebetterindia.com/169271/latur-swades-real-story-water-drought-village-maharashtra/  (11 Jan. 2019)

Karnataka Borewell Recharge Method  Sikandar Meeranayak, the founder of a non-profit called Sankalpa Rural Development Society (SRDS) based in Hubli, is one of those working to assist farmers to understand the importance of sustainable water management. Meeranayak was awarded the Energy Globe World Award- 2018 in the Category- Water for innovative development of the twin ring method of rain water harvesting through bore well recharge at the international award ceremony in Iran, on 28 January, 2019.

The SRDS method of borewell recharge uses a catchment pond that can collect and store up to three lakh litres of rainwater. The catchment pond is a 10x10x10 foot pit that acts as a primary filter around the borewell and has a casing pipe with tiny holes to allow water to percolate in and out without any loss to the borewell. A pit is dug around the borewell casing. The bottom of the pit is lined with filtration material to a depth of 2 ft. Then, slits are cut into the borewell casing using a cutting machine and the casing is wrapped with nylon mesh so that solids cannot enter.

Counter Currents

At this stage, cement rings are placed around the borewell casing and the spaces between are filled with cement to seal them. This ‘false well’ is then filled with stones. Another ‘false well’ is made of cement rings which are placed next to the first and the gaps between are filled with cement. A cover is placed on it to stop rubbish from falling in. A three-inch feeder pipe is fitted, coming from the pond to a hole in the first cement ring of the empty well. This brings in the water from the pond. During the rainy season, the water flows from the pond into the first empty well where it percolates down through the filtration material and subsequently up into the second well around the borewell casing. It then enters through the slits and filters down into the underlying aquifer. https://countercurrents.org/2019/02/09/indias-invisible-water-wizard-conquers-the-world/ (9 Feb. 2019)

Andhra Pradesh Groundwater levels up in Srikakulam Strengthening local water options, farmers support and nature help improve groundwater table in several parts of Srikakulam district due to water management works taken up under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Under the impact of the cyclone Titli, many tanks are brimming with water — this has also contributed to increase in the groundwater levels by upto 2 m. Srikakulam Groundwater Department Additional Director P Kodanda Rao said that the farmers did not go in for the second crop this year.  http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2019/may/01/groundwater-levels-look-up-in-srikakulam-district-of-andhra-pradesh-1971299.html  (1 May 2019)

Mizoram Springs revival An initiative in Sumsuih village (240 households), some 50 km from the state capital Aizawl, has successfully demonstrated that community-led conservation efforts could ensure water security around the year. A detailed hydro-geological mapping was conducted to identify specific recharge zones and interventions based on the properties of aquifers. Conservation structures such as pits, trenches and a weir were constructed after identifying the recharge points and zones.

A water harvesting structure in Sumsuih village in Mizoram (Photo by GIZ)
A water harvesting structure in Sumsuih village in Mizoram (Photo by GIZ/ India Climate Dialogue)

The German development co-operation agency GIZ is supporting spring-shed development as a climate adaptation measure in Mizoram from 2018. It is being done in partnership with state depts and a consortium of NGOs. GIZ has supported the building of trenches, recharge ponds, percolation pits and water storage structures, Gabien rocks & check dams after hydro-geological study for 20 springs in different villages of Mizoram including Sihphir, Lamchhip, Hmuifang, Chamring & Sumsuih. https://indiaclimatedialogue.net/2020/01/24/revive-springs-for-water-security-in-mizoram/  (24 Jan. 2020)

Other Positive Water Stories


Assam Tank for safe water during floods Using traditional purification methods along with modern technology, the tank is expected to provide arsenic-free drinking water to 236 villages of the five sapori (island) villages in Majuli island and North Lakhimpur. “Clean, drinking water is probably the biggest challenge during the floods every year. The small water bottles were not making much of a difference. I wondered how we could solve the problem,” Haren Narah, a resident of Majuli, a social activist for 15 years and former president of Takam Mising Porin Kebang, or the Mising tribe student union. Months later, the answer can be found in a patch of land 46-year-old Narah donated to his community where is being built a community water tank.

Asaam floods, assam village builds water tank, Majuli island, arsenic levels in assam water, Takam Mising Porin Kebang, Maati Community, Living Art Festival, assam news, indian express
A reinforced cement concrete structure has the tank placed at 1.8 metres above ground level — the traditional safety mark. (Photo courtesy: Maati Community)

A reinforced cement concrete structure has the tank placed at 1.8 m above ground level. It comes with a staircase and safety railing. The team is also testing the tank to see if the water is arsenic-free. “In Majuli, most areas have a high level of arsenic,” says Narah. “We did some research on the traditional Mising houses of Majuli —1.8 meters is the safety mark, and most families store their belongings at that height.” says Ankur Choudhury, an architect and faculty member at the North East Hill University, who helped design the tank. It uses traditional water purification methods practised by the villagers — a three layered water filter consisting of coal from burnt timber or bamboo, small pieces of stone, and river sand. https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/assam/how-an-assam-village-is-building-its-own-tank-for-safe-water-during-floods-6254793/  (06 Feb. 2020)

Odisha Women usher in water revolution Women of Mangarajpur panchayat under Kujang block have ushered in a revolution by renovating water bodies in their locality.

Women cleaning a pond in a village under Mangarajpur panchayat TNIE

The women have undertaken tasks such as digging of ponds and erection of embankment on the river for creating pools of water to overcome the problem of acute water scarcity. http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2019/mar/04/women-usher-in-water-revolution-1946470.html (4 March 2019)


Rajasthan Amid scarcity Laporia has plenty of water Chauka system of Laporia in Rajasthan. The conservation movement that started in Laporiya has now spread to 58 villages and, in each case, is run by the villagers themselves.


No government body is involved. The people build the ‘chaukas’, carry out maintenance and desilt channels. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/how-one-rajasthan-village-still-has-water-even-after-a-long-dry-summer-2069363   (14 July 2019)

Local democracy is solving water issue

A community pond under construction in Jhalua Kaun. Pic credit: Rajat Kumar
A community pond under construction in Jhalua Kaun. Pic credit: Rajat Kumar/ India Water Portal 

People come together to dig community ponds in the desert. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/how-local-democracy-solving-water-issues-southern-rajasthan    (9 Sept. 2019)

Fair highlights water conservation An agriculture fair organised at Chirawa in Jhunjhunu district highlighted the need for water conservation and a shift towards less water-intensive crops, while calling for higher crop yield and ensuring remunerative prices for agricultural produce. While the participants expressed concern over decline in groundwater level, it was pointed out that Shekhawati’s first groundwater recharge well had been built in Chirawa tehsil’s Ismailpur village. With the construction of tankas (tanks) in houses, digging of ponds and irrigation by sprinklers, Ismailpur has emerged as a role model for water conservation. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/fair-highlights-water-conservation-higher-crop-yield-technologies/article30954148.ece  (01 March 2020)

Gujarat Zeel-Virda of Banni: amazing traditional water harvesting system How the Maldhari (Pastoralist) of Banni Grassland created their own water resources to fight with water scarcity faced by animals and human bings.

This systems known as: ABATH. They collectively dig the well (virda) and found sweet water. Through this systems they survive themselves and help their thousand of animals. Some video links below.





Reviving lakes in Banaskantha Vimukta Samuday Samarthan Manch is working to empower the nomadic and denotified communities to solve India’s water crisis.

Social Story
Leading a plantation drive in a village, Gujarat. (Image: VSSM India)

Till now, the organisation has deepened 87 village lakes in 45 villages of Banaskantha. https://yourstory.com/socialstory/2019/07/mittal-patel-activist-reviving-lakes-gujarat  (30 July 2019)

Mitigating coastal salinity Rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge through ponds and desilting of check dams have curtailed salinity ingress in coastal Gujarat, increasing freshwater availability. https://www.villagesquare.in/2019/09/16/smart-water-management-mitigates-coastal-salinity/   (16 Sept. 2019)

About Premji bhai Patel’s effort at constructing water harvesting structures in Gujarat. https://www.thebetterindia.com/179766/gujarat-hero-grows-forest-premji-patel-inspiring-india/   (19 April 2019)


Telangana Mahabubnagar hamlets shows way to tackle water crisis

Lambadas living in Thimmaipally thanda of Addakal mandal, Mahabubnagar, took up water harvesting as a social movement. Telangana Today.

Thimmaipally Thanda residents in drought-prone Mahabubnagar show how effective water harvesting methods can transform lives. https://telanganatoday.com/remote-hamlet-in-mahabubnagar-shows-the-way-in-tackling-water-crisis  (30 June 2019) 

As students map the weather, an Indian village bests its water woes Rainwater conservation efforts along with an automatic weather station at a local school has led to number of changes in Kothapally village in Telangana including the groundwater level coming up by 4 mts. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-weather-children/as-students-map-the-weather-an-indian-village-bests-its-water-woes-idUSKCN1VD0E7   (23 Aug. 2019)

Start up to solve water crisis About work of Vasser labs that SANDRP highlighted earlier. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/startups/features/a-water-crisis-looms-over-india-this-startup-may-have-some-answers-vassar-labs/articleshow/69571869.cms    (30 May 2019)

Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

Also See:

World Water Day India 2020: Top Positive Stories from Farmers

World Water Day India 2020: Top Positive Urban Stories

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