Groundwater

World Water Day 2022: India’s Positive Groundwater Stories

(Feature image: Suranga: Tunnelling the earth for water https://www.deccanherald.com/spectrum/suranga-tunnelling-the-earth-for-water-1080713.html (12 Feb. 2022)

March 22 is celebrated as World Water Day (WWD) since 1993 to underline the significance of freshwater resources. The theme for 2022 WWD is Groundwater which has become India’s water lifeline at least for the last four decades for most of urban and rural areas, be it supply of potable, irrigation or industrial use. The large scale unsustainable extraction and pollution of this invisible finite resource has been causing grave concern.

However, there are several indigenous viable alternatives and governance mechanism which can reverse the groundwater depletion trend and fulfil water requirements. We here compile top 10 positive groundwater stories of last one year. Similarly, the second part covers urban water options and the third part highlights positive water stories. It is worth mentioning that most of these remarkable efforts are result of MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Authority) scheme.

1. Karnataka Groundwater recharge project brings livelihood, respect to well-diggers The 2 lakh recharge wells the well diggers dug up in different Bangalore neighbourhoods are beginning to ensure water security, besides ensuring them much-needed income even amidst the raging pandemic.

S Vishwanath, Director of Biome Environmental Solutions said: “More than 1000 families of well digging community live around Bangalore. Their deep traditional knowledge & understanding of Bangalore’s geohydrology contributed to building Bangalore’s recharge wells.” Bangalore gets 600-1000 mm of water and the city can ideally recharge 80% of rain water. The objective is to have a recharge well in every alternate property to achieve a million wells.

Image source: Deccan Herald

Today with 2 lakh recharge wells, Bangalore has the highest number of such wells compared to any other metro city of India. Overall recharge rate in Bangalore is 3-8% due to the wide spread concretisation of surface. The objective is to increase this to 50-60%. It would also help reduce the urban flooding. Earlier, during heavy rains, parts of Cubbon park used to be water logged for over a month. Now the water logging is gone in 2-3 days.

It takes one day for a team of five well diggers to dig a recharge well. Wells with a diameter of 3-4 mts had depth of 12-15 ft ideally. A typical recharge well with a depth of 15-20 ft would cost Rs 30 000-Rs 35000. The walls are made of precast concrete rings and the surroundings are filled with 40 mm stone gelly. The top of the well is sealed with silt filter and mesh to stop anyone falling in. It takes just one hour for the recharge well to typically absorb 10 000 litres of water. The well diggers have also helped desilt and rejuvenate old open wells that can help recharge even more water. https://www.deccanherald.com/city/project-to-rejuvenate-city-s-groundwater-brings-livelihood-respect-to-traditional-well-diggers-1036774.html (3 Oct 2021)

Some more positive groundwater reports from Karnataka

New-age check dams built under MGNREGA cost less, give more The State government is promoting construction of new generation check dams across natural streams, rivulets and other waterbodies under the MGNREGA program. Over 5,000 multiple arch buttress check dams (MACD) have come up under MGNREGA, 1,820 in the last two years. The project is unique because the design consumes less concrete and lasts longer than traditional stone masonry check dams. The cost of MACD is around 25% less than Reinforced Cement Concrete check dams. They harvest rain water, act as temporary impounding structures, and recharge the aquifer. Apart from providing water to farmers in drier months, they act as water holes for wildlife too. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/new-age-check-dams-built-under-mgnrega-cost-less-give-more/article35845690.ece  (10 Aug. 2021)

Puttur’s new check dams are cheaper, more durable  Shree Padre writes on Puttur’s check dams: The Neera Nemmadige Padre held a ‘Katta Utsava’ (Katta Festival) in 2020. It was Kasargod Development Package (KDP) that picked up the idea. It plans to hold a check dam festival every two years to create awareness and encourage the building of check dams. The KDP is a special development program for the district by the state government.

Jogibettu Govinda Bhat, a farmer, with his unique check dam built with mild steel sheets. Image source Civil Society

A KDP team consisting of engineers from the Minor Irrigation Department and officers of the Soil Conservation Department visited Marike’s check dam in January 2020. After studying it carefully they approved three innovative check dam designs for mass implementation in the district. Marike’s is one of them. https://www.civilsocietyonline.com/rural-reporter/the-new-check-dams-of-puttur/  (03 April 2021)

2. Tamil Nadu Govt lauded for regulating industry’s GW extraction Pointing this out in its performance audit report on groundwater management and regulation, which was placed in Parliament last week, the CAG said such a system was in place only in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Its study covered the period of 2013-18 and information was updated till September 2020. In Tamil Nadu, the regulation for the groundwater management and issue of no-objection certificates for groundwater extraction authorises the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Bureau of Indian Standards to accord permission only after ensuring that applicants have got the no-objection certificates.

All schemes should be formulated through the State Ground and Surface Water Resources Data Centre, Chennai. The CAG’s appreciation assumes importance as its study of 328 cases in 18 States has revealed that 77% of the industrial projects were operating without the no-objection certificates for groundwater extraction.

CAG has also lauded the State for adopting ‘firka’ as the assessment unit because this is expected to help in identification of pockets of groundwater potential within the over- exploited and critical blocks, leading to optimal utilisation of the resources. For the purpose of effective regulation and implementation of assessment, the State Ground and Surface Water Resources Data Centre decided in 2011 to take the ‘firka’ as the assessment unit. As for the variations in guidelines between those of the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) and those of the States and the Union Territories, the CAG observed that in Tamil Nadu, “individual households are exempted from obtaining the no-objection certificate, whereas this is not so in the CGWA guidelines”. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tamil-nadu-lauded-for-regulating-industrys-groundwater-extraction/article38059178.ece  (29 Dec. 2021)

Some more positive groundwater reports from Tamil Nadu

‘Neeruravu’ to recharge groundwater of Pullampara A model watershed conservation project has begun in Pullampara grama panchayat in the capital with the active participation of the local community. It aims at recharging the groundwater through a slew of programmes and also livelihood projects for local communities.

This is a pilot project of the state mission of the MGNREGS for soil and water conservation in the state. Titled ‘Neeruravu’, the first phase of the project is being implemented in the Chullalam watershed under the Pullampara panchayat. Programmes for recharging of water resources,  including house wells and income generation for the people will be implemented in about 266 ha in the Mukkudi & Chullalam wards, according to panchayat president Rajesh PV. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/thiruvananthapuram/2021/aug/23/neeruravu-to-recharge-groundwater-of-pullampara-2348356.html  (23 Aug. 2021)

Catching the rains Tiruvannamalai District Administration converged a range of schemes to ensure rainwater harvesting through creation of farm ponds. With a view to improving the groundwater potential of the district, the district administration decided to create 1,121 farm ponds in 541 village panchayats of 18 blocks at a unit cost of Rs 1.78 lakhs. This was sought to be accomplished within 30 days under Catch the Rain Campaign. Workforce, consisting mostly of women labourers under the MGNREGA Act, was tapped. The Scheme was inaugurated by the district collector on August 12, 2021 at Seelapandal Village in Thurinjapuram Block and completed on September 10, 2021.

– The dimensions of each farm pond are 72 ft x 36 ft x 5 ft. The total volume of one farm pond is 12,960 cubic feet. A total of 3.63 lakh litres of water can be stored in each farm pond. Thus 40.69 crore litres of water was additionally stored during the monsoon season. Total person-days generated in 1,121 farm ponds is 6.78 lakh with each farm pond generating 603 person-days of work. An expenditure of Rs 18.52 crore under labour component and Rs 78.47 lakh under material component was incurred during this project period under MGNREGA.

– These adjudicators approved the farm ponds after the inspection and issued a provisional certificate of world record with the title ‘Most farm ponds created at multiple locations in 30 days’. This was awarded to the district collector & the additional collector (Development) on Sep 14, 2021.

What has happened in the district, under the guidance of its District Collector B Murugesh & a young and dynamic Additional Collector M Prathap, is commendable, replicable & scalable. http://www.millenniumpost.in/opinion/catching-the-rains-466992 (2 Feb 2022)

A 22-km channel in Villupuram comes alive after 45 years A 22-km water channel has come to life, after 45 years, thanks to the residents of Villupuram and three villages. Originating at the zero point of the Thenpennaiar at Thelimedu, the Villupuram channel meandered its way to eight waterbodies that helped to recharge the groundwater table and meet the drinking water requirements of Villupuram town. But the channel lost its glory with waste dumping, encroachments on account of farming activities and the closure of a part of the channel after the Villupuram-Chennai national highway was four-laned in 2003. Instead of building a culvert, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) closed the channel near the west end of Villupuram, thus stopping the flow from the Thenpennaiar to Periya Eri. Then, debris and silt filled the channel.

Community project: Children enjoying a swim in the restored Villupuram channel. | Photo Credit: KUMAR SS/The Hindu

Since 2015, the town had gone through a severe water scarcity. Lack of maintenance of the channels meant the eight waterbodies remained dry, while the other waterbodies in the district brimmed. This was when a group of residents from Villupuram and from Nannadu, Viratikuppam and Alathur stepped in. “We found that the Villupuram channel had once flowed 22 km and recharged eight large waterbodies spread over 900 acres. But a major portion of the channel was encroached upon and covered with debris and was on the verge of extinction,” says Ra. Panchamurthy, a member of the Villupuram Channel Committee.

“A WhatsApp group of youths from Villupuram and the three villages was formed. This group decided to desilt the channel and the inlets to streamline the flow to the eight tanks. In 2018, the residents volunteered to do manual work, while others contributed money for the first phase of restoration,” he says. “The locals cleared the waste, strengthened the embankments and carried out other works to increase storage. Though the channel received around 20% of the flow from the Thenpennaiar, it stopped after a few days,” Mr. Panchamurthy added. Yet, the youths continued their efforts and restored the channel to a distance of 16 km in 2019. Their dream became a reality, and the channel got a copious flow from the Thenpennaiar, reaching 65% of its carrying capacity.

“The WRD joined the efforts and sanctioned ₹35 lakh under the ‘kudimaramathu’ scheme in 2020,” according to T. Dakshinamoorthy, a resident of Nannadu. Subsequently, the villagers and the residents of Villupuram found that the channel had to be restored to another 6 km from Nannadu to Villupuram town and approached the district administration for help. Collector D. Mohan inspected the channel and promised them funds. However, the villagers raised ₹8.54 lakh through crowd funding and restored the final portion of the channel. The channel is back on the district’s water map. The efforts of the villagers have helped to drive up the groundwater table, and irrigated 250 acres of farmland around the eight waterbodies. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/a-22-km-channel-comes-alive-after-45-years/article38032707.ece  (25 Dec. 2021)

49 parched irrigation tanks in Tirunelveli get water after 30 years Forty-nine parched irrigation tanks, which remained largely dry for over thirty years due to encroachment of clogged irrigation channels, have now received water from Hanuman River, due to the timely efforts taken by Collector V. Vishnu to remove the man-made obstacles at various places along the 39 km-long watercourse of the river.

This operation has resurrected farming operations on over 10,000 acres after a gap of 30 years. Mr. Vishnu, after visiting a number of dry water bodies – both systematised and non-systematised – across the district in the first week of July, came out with the plan, ‘Nellai Neervalam’ (Tirunelveli Water Resources). The objective was to rejuvenate the ponds and the irrigation tanks with public participation.

Besides digitizing information pertaining to the water bodies of Tirunelveli district, steps were taken to ensure free flow of water into these irrigation tanks and ponds by desilting the irrigation channels and removing illegal structures obstructing the flow of water into these water bodies. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/49-parched-irrigation-tanks-in-tirunelveli-district-get-water-after-30-years/article37455789.ece  (12 Nov. 2021)

WRD plan to restore 83 tanks will benefit 14K acres With the Central government’s assistance, the Water Resources Department (WRD) has chalked out plans to renovate, repair and restore waterbodies across the State to increase the storage capacity, availability of drinking water, agricultural productivity, and groundwater levels. WRD sources said there were over 2 lakh tanks and minor irrigation sources in the State, but less than 90,000 are in use now. Most of these waterbodies have gone into disuse because of poor maintenance, encroachments, illegal use of land for construction, and the like. Thus, lakhs of hectares of land with irrigation potential have been lost in recent years, the sources said.

A senior WRD official told TNIE the initial plan was to restore 83 tanks in Coimbatore, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Ramanathapuram, Sivagangai, Tiruppur, and Virudhunagar at a cost of Rs 46.81 crore.  Work on 50 tanks has been completed, and the rest is under way. Once these waterbodies are restored, 14,462 acres of agricultural land are set to benefit. The official also said removing encroachments is a major challenge. Though the Madras High Court directed the State and Central governments to evict encroachers, the revenue officials, who are tasked with this, face problems due to political pressure.  https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2022/jan/26/water-resources-departmentplan-to-restore-83-tn-tanks-will-benefit-14k-acres-2411443.html  (26 Jan. 2022)

Coimbatore Works taken up to rejuvenate River Kowsika push up ground water level   Raising of the farm bunds was one of the many works that the District Rural Development Agency had taken up for the development of River Kowsika and areas dependent on it under the scheme. The other benefit is that groundwater level has increased by at least a few feet there, he adds. The Agency took up work under the MGNREGA scheme in 2018-19 to rejuvenate the river with a three-pronged approach – erosion control measures, groundwater recharge and rejuvenation of water bodies, says the Agency’s Project Director, Coimbatore, S. Kavitha. Of the 526 boulder check proposed across the river’s course in five panchayat unions – Periyanaickenpalayam, Sarcarsamakulam, Annur, Sulur and Avinashi – the Agency has thus far constructed 180. And, it has dug 302 recharge wells as well for water percolation, she adds.

A check dam constructed across River Kowsika in Vallamadai Panchayat in Sarcarsamakulam Block under MGNREGA scheme. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement/The Hindu

The next step was dredging tanks in the River Kowsika system. It involves deepening a few tanks so that the water spread is not wide and thin and concentrated to prevent easy evaporation. The final step, Ms. Kavitha says, was planting saplings to develop tree groves. The Agency has completed work in a spot identified for tree grove, is working in the second place and has issued orders for nine more places. The tree groves are to prevent soil erosion, increase chances of rain and improve biodiversity. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/works-taken-up-to-rejuvenate-river-kowsika-pushes-up-ground-water-level/article35290200.ece  (12 July 2021)

3. Punjab Campaign propagates permaculture to save groundwater Launching Agriculture and Environment Centre (AEC), a group of Sikh activists have taken the initiative to carry out ‘jal chetna yatra’ (water awareness march) under ‘jhona ghatao Punjab bachao’ (reduce paddy, save Punjab) from June 7 to motivate people not only to reduce area under paddy and diversify, but also to turn to agro-forestry and planting small forests of traditional trees in parts of their lands to increase the forest cover in the state. They are meeting agriculture experts, environmentalists and farmers who are already into diverse or organic farming, asking them to share their experiences and experiments on social media. According to the group they are reaching out to non-resident Punjabis to set the example on their lands.

“Our target is to make at least 500 acre free of paddy this year. It may be a very small area, but we want that this would set examples in diversification. Though our idea is that cultivation of paddy should be reduced but for instant reduction in over exploitation of water we are also amplifying the alternate techniques of paddy cultivation,” said Mandhir Singh and Parmjeet Singh, who started the jal chetna yatra on June 7. “Punjab needs comprehensive approach and solution. Only reduction in paddy cultivation is not enough and we need to increase the green cover in the state, which is just at 6% now. On July 28, we are planning to have a conference in which we intend to have agriculture experts, environmentalists and successful farmers so that comprehensive solutions can be brought before the people,” they said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ludhiana/reduce-paddy-save-pb-campaign-propagates-permaculture-to-save-groundwater/articleshow/83620220.cms  (18 June 2021)

Some more groundwater conservation efforts in Punjab.  

DC drives tractor to spread info on DSR Amid the Covid pandemic when officials are overburdened, Sangrur Deputy Commissioner (DC) Ramvir and other officials of the Agriculture Department are visiting villages and motivating farmers to adopt the direct sowing of rice (DSR) technique for paddy transplantation to save groundwater.

The DC himself runs the tractor to show how to use DSR while other officials share vital information. For many, it is an unprecedented sight. The officials are hopeful of getting positive results in the coming days. On May 29, the department organised a programme at Balwarh Kalan village to encourage farmers to adopt DSR. “Since I come from a family of farmers, I know their problems and mindset. I am driving the tractor in fields with officials to convince farmers to adopt DSR,” DC Ramvir said. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/dc-drives-tractor-to-spread-info-on-direct-rice-seeding-260574  (30 May 2021)

Ex-agriculture officer develops tech to use less water In an effort to save water during paddy cultivation, former district agriculture officer Daler Singh, who has already been promoting sowing of paddy on ridges, has now innovated ‘dry puddling’ technique for transplanting paddy in place of traditional water-guzzling puddling. Even though a few dry seeding techniques have been successfully developed and scores of farmers have adapted to the same, most of the farmers still resort to traditional style of puddling.

Jalandhar-based farmer Harinder Singh Dhindsa, who along with a group of farmers had earlier sent a memorandum to the CM for banning traditional style of puddling, said he used two techniques — dry seeding on ridges and transplanting on wet fields using a machine in 23 acres. “I have not at all used traditional puddling,” he said, adding, “to save Punjab, it is must to put a ban on traditional puddling and farmers should adapt to alternate techniques,” he added. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ludhiana/paddy-sowing-jalandhar-ex-agriculture-officer-develops-tech-to-use-less-water/articleshow/84312365.cms  (11 July 2021)

Paddy cultivators adopt aerobic method Cultivating paddy aerobically is low cost, sustainable, cuts down labour, and uses much less water, as this method requires very little irrigation and no transplantation. https://en.gaonconnection.com/paddy-cultivation-aerobic-method-farming-irrigation-farmers-agriculture-drought-rainwater/  (30 June 2021)

Traditional farming to preserve groundwater The endeavours of the Bishnois in Bazidpur village is helping in reducing groundwater depths and preserve the community’s traditional knowledge systems. https://www.news18.com/news/india/a-long-tradition-of-eco-sensitive-agriculture-helps-bishnois-preserve-groundwater-4281899.html (5 Oct 2021)

4. Rajasthan Villagers construct dam by contributing Rs 45 lakh Villagers in Nainwa subdivision of Bundi district made a 2050-foot-long dam by contributing Rs 45 lakh to tackle the issue of depleting groundwater. The residents of 13 villages came together, and worked day and night to build the dam in 29 days. The 80-foot-wide and 29-foot-high dam was built in the Baman gram panchayat area without government support. Local farmers also gave away more than 56 ha (350 bighas) for the dam.

Baman village was put in the dark zone list due to its depleting groundwater which had shrunk to as low as 800 feet. The villagers have been struggling to get potable water. Frustrated with government inaction, the villagers decided to take the matters into their own hands. https://www.news18.com/news/india/in-rajasthan-villagers-construct-dam-by-contributing-rs-45-lakh-3971114.html  (16 July 2021)

Some more positive water reports from Rajasthan

Tamlore village: An oasis in heart of Thar Desert A dusty village in the midst of the mighty Thar desert has managed to survive water scarcity through its unique recharging wells for over a century now. Tamlore village in Barmer has no water body or tap connection to fulfil its drinking water needs. It is from the small dry wells known as ‘Beria’ that the villagers have quenched their thirst for so long. The village with a population of just over 2,000 is among the few in the region where such wells of 2-meter diameter recharge every 24-48 hours giving 20-40 litres of water. The wells are divided among 300 households on the basis of caste and have proven to be a boon for women in the region for providing ease to fetch water within the limits of the village. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/tamlore-village-an-oasis-in-the-heart-of-thar-desert/articleshow/83247490.cms  (05 June 2021)

KRAPAVIS wins India Biodiversity Award Krishi Avam Paristhitiki Vikas Sansthan (KRAPAVIS) has won the prestigious India Biodiversity Award 2021 under the category ‘Sustainable Use of Biological Resources.’ The award was announced on the occasion of ‘International Biodiversity Day’ by the Union environment minister. The Award is a joint initiative by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

On receiving the award, KRAPAVIS founder Aman Singh said, “Our two-and-a-half decades work has involved restoring hundreds of Orans, which are the ‘natural common lands’ where one can find water, medicinal plants, wild foods, wildlife but also solace and spiritual comfort. In our work, we use the ‘citizen science’ research & documentation; policy analysis and advocacy; and above all the community awareness.” KRAPAVIS has supported communities to restore water harvesting structures, recharge wells & water tables and plant half a million trees of local varieties in Orans. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/krapavis-wins-india-biodiversity-awards/articleshow/82922714.cms  (25 May 2021)

Barren land to water body The dry and dusty piece of 500-acres of land on the outskirts of Jaipur once hardly had 30 trees on it. The land in the Phagi district once had plenty of life in it. But a devastating flood ruined the topsoil and left the land to die and be part of the desert. The fate of the land changed when Manavendra Singh Shekhawat, a hotelier from Jaipur aspired to bring water to this dry land and using traditional water harvesting practices in 2013.

The land today has 8 waterbodies. The water also has completely transformed the life and economy of the neighbouring villages as well. With the water feeding the land and with 100s of trees and buzzing wildlife, Manavendra is now stepping on to build an alternate living space here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=415an1V0FxQ  (03 Sept. 2021)   

5. Kerala Kasaragod recharges groundwater levels by ~9 metres in 2 years District Collector Sajith Babu said in a statement that water levels in wells in Kasargod and neighbouring Manjeshwaram have increased by almost nine metres, as a result of scientific water conservation methods. These measures include the construction of temporary check dams and reviving streams over the past two years.

The groundwater was conserved through methods like building check dams and reviving streams over the last two years, district administration said. The News Minute

The district administration said that they have launched several inter-department conservation projects in the district. The rise in groundwater levels was studied by observing 67 open borewells in six blocks of the district from May 2019 to May 2021. Through this exercise, the authorities observed the nine-metre rise, they said. The study was conducted as part of the Jal Shakti Abhiyan under the Union Ministry of Water Resources.

Apart from constructing check dams and reviving streams, the measures taken to improve water conservation included rainwater harvesting, construction of watersheds and recharging of wells. Kasargod district has the highest number of borewells in the state. The GEC study also states that groundwater availability for future use is 5,176 HaM, the lowest in the state.

In July 2019, Ashok Kumar Singh, a Union government delegate who reached the district to review the situation, said that Kasaragod was among the 255 districts in the country that faced severe drinking water shortage. Palakkad was another district from Kerala on the list. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/keralas-kasaragod-recharges-groundwater-levels-almost-9-metres-two-years-150570  (12 June 2021)

Kasargod: Parallel vented dam enriches groundwater table Suresh Bhat V S, an enthusiastic farmer from Swarga who also happens to be a social worker, has built this vented dam cum bridge by spending his own money, after making two years of elaborate preparations. He removed loads of silt and sand that had accumulated during the summer months in the stream for the last two years. In order to ensure that sand from the road does not get washed into the canal again and hamper the water accumulation, he also had got silt in the canal from Golikatte to Swarga bridge removed and conducted repairs.

He had also widened the canal so that more water gets collected there. To stop sand erosion in the canal and to feed water to agricultural fields till the rainy season, he has built a permanent vented dam. He has used about 800 laterite stones to the gate of the dam which is secured with the help of four iron bars and by fixing planks on both sides and filling mud in the gap therein. Boulders have also been stacked to withstand water pressure. https://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay?newsID=923873  (07 Feb. 2022)

Suranga digger Ramanna and his assistant. Photo by Shree Padre/ Deccan Herald.

Suranga: Tunnelling earth for water Suranga, the traditional water technology of Western Ghats areas in Karnataka and Kerala, continues to remain relevant in Dakshin Kannada and Kasargod. https://www.deccanherald.com/spectrum/suranga-tunnelling-the-earth-for-water-1080713.html  (12 Feb. 2022) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHBJ0CpqxAQ  (19 April 2021)  

6. Madhya Pradesh Tribals in Damoh Fought for its Land & Rejuvenated it  The residents of Phular had networked with water experts during the Janadesh Yatra of 2009 who had recounted the many benefits of creating small water structures and practising rainwater harvesting. Upon returning to their hamlet, the villagers levelled the fields, created small ponds, and constructed boundaries to catch rainwater.

Vimla Bahin, who has been the unsung guardian of Phular — for she had constantly resisted the government efforts to usurp their lands before FRA came into force — took the lead among the women in charting and creating these water bodies.

The water has created the scope for farming all year round. It has helped many of the villagers stay home, rather than go to places like Delhi, Punjab, Guna & Ashoknagar in search of work. https://www.news18.com/news/india/how-a-tribal-village-in-damoh-fought-for-its-land-and-rejuvenated-it-3811823.html  (05 June 2021)

7. Goa Curti-Khandepar villagers revive 5 waterbodies Over the past three years, the villagers of Curti-Khandepar panchayat united to bring back to life five community ponds, choked to death with waste and silt. For the most part, if the work required was minor, locals didn’t even bother waiting for government funds to be sanctioned. Now, the villagers’ perseverance has inspired a government scheme, which will aid such efforts by locals across any village in the state.

The village biodiversity management committee desilted this pond. ToI

The work in the Ponda village was initiated at first by the Curti-Khandepar biodiversity management committee (BMC). The five ponds which have been revived were earlier used for irrigation by the community, but gradually neglect had pushed them to the verge of choking to non-existence. “Currently, locals have cleaned community ponds in Keri, Panchme, Kelbai, Copperwada and Curti area,” said Gurudas Khedekar, sarpanch of the panchayat. Having tasted success with the revival of the five water bodies, the locals have begun work on 4-5 more ponds. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/curti-khandepar-villagers-revive-five-water-bodies-inspire-a-govt-scheme/articleshow/86354032.cms  (20 Sept. 2021)

8. Andhra Pradesh ‘Water champion’ changes Farmers’ lives for better Hinterlands in Thamballapalle region, once parched and unexplored, are now thriving with lush green fields, due to T Pareshamma and her persistent efforts towards water conservation. Farmhands in Thamballapalle and surrounding areas now grow millet and other cereals, instead of paddy and tomato, since the former require less water and can be grown in any environment.

T Pareshamma educating farmers and children on water conservation, in Thamballapalle. (Photo | Express)

32 year-old Pareshamma joined Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) as a panchayat resource person (PRP) in 2015. At present, she works as a PRP volunteer and educates farmers and MGNREGA workers on water harvesting. She also suggests to farmers of 16 villages in the region on what crops to grow that consume less water. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2021/jun/13/water-champion-changes-farmers-lives-for-better-2315556.html  (13 June 2021)

9. Odisha Farm ponds help Sundargarh farmers script success story At a time when farmers in most places are facing problems related to irrigation and groundwater depletion, their counterparts in Sundargarh district have found the ‘Farm Pond Project’ as a solution to address both issues. According to available information, a total of 431 farm ponds have been dug up in the 2020-21. Another 1,840 are in the pipeline. With the implementation of this project, the farmers are no longer facing problems to irrigate their crops.

Image Source: The Orissa Post

The quantity of the harvest has increased and along with it their financial conditions. With an aim to provide work opportunity to labourers, the project has been connected with MGNREGS. So the daily wagers are also being able to earn. At the same time, self-help groups are being strengthened by engaging them to oversee the work. https://www.orissapost.com/farm-ponds-help-farmers-script-success-story-in-sundargarh/  (21 June 2021) 

10. Gujarat  Reviving defunct bore wells  Detailed report on success of the Motirayan village of Mandvi taluka, Kachchch district, in reviving the defunct bore wells and giving hope to the farmers sound elixir in the midst of the failing bore wells through K-MARC (Kankavati-Manage Aquifer Recharge through Communities) project in Kachchh. One of the meanings of the word kankavati is the ‘golden bowl’, which is used to keep turmeric and kumkum (red turmeric powder). And in the context of Kachchh, kankavati is water, as water is gold.

Interestingly, the entire financial resources for the project came from community organisations, religious groups and participating farmers. For instance, in Moti Rayan village, where it benefitted 65 bore wells, contributions came from Patidar Samaj (₹1 lakh); and its leaders (₹5,000); Jain Samaj (₹20,000); bore well owners (₹12,000 -14,000 each) and the 170 farmers in the bore well recharge command area contributed ₹1,000 each.

This project implemented in about 19 villages in Mandvi area of Kachchh has caught the attention of other villages also. Now an initiative is underway to identify the defunct bore wells in each village of Mandvi so that the project could be undertaken under the MGNREGS. If this project materialises and is implemented according to the suitability of the places, it would benefit the farmers & inspire farmers in other rainfed regions of the country to save rainwater and revive the bore wells. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/elixir-in-the-midst-of-failed-bore-wells-evidences-from-kachchh-gujarat/article64943487.ece  (28 Jan. 2022)

Some more positive groundwater stories

Centre’s guidelines only new cover to old scheme: NGT The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Jal Shakti to regulate and control ground water extraction in the country is only a new cover provided to the old scheme with minor variations, alterations and modifications, the National Green Tribunal has said. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel said the 2020 guidelines broadly do not satisfy directions given by it repeatedly and persistently.

–  The NGT said there is a twist when the guidelines says that NOC shall not be granted to new packaged water industries in over-exploited areas even if they belong to MSME category. “In Guidelines 2015, no NOC was to be given to any water intensive industry, even if it is MSME, in over exploited assessment areas. Now it is restricted to packaged water industries. Apparently, a drastic relaxation has been given in respect of water intensive industries, for no reason, and that too in flagrant defiance of order of Tribunal,” it said. https://theprint.in/india/centres-guidelines-on-regulation-of-ground-water-extraction-only-new-cover-to-old-scheme-ngt/849267/  (26 Feb. 2022)

NGT imposes ₹25 cr fine on bottlers of Coca-Cola, Pepsi The NGT ruled that the companies’ bottling operations were in violation of environmental legislation issued by the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) as they operated without the requisite no objection certificate (NOC) to withdraw groundwater. Both companies were also accused of breaking the terms of their licences by failing to meet their requirements to recharge ground water. Moon Beverages (Coco Cola) and Varun Beverages (PepsiCo) were thus ordered to pay a total of around ₹25 crores for illegally abstracting groundwater and inflicting environmental harm.

The NGT also came down hard on the government regulator CGWA, pointing out various flaws in its operations. The UP Ground Water Department (UPGWD) was also held accountable as the body attempted to confer authority to the companies for extraction of groundwater without having the jurisdiction to do so. The tribunal imposed an environmental compensation of ₹1.85 crore on Moon Beverages Ltd located at Greater Noida, ₹13.24 crore on Moon Beverage Ltd’s Sahibabad unit and ₹9.71 crore on Varun Beverages Ltd’s Greater Noida unit.

A joint committee comprising the MoEF and Jal Shakti, the CPCB, the CGWA, the UPGWB and District Magistrates of concerned districts were also set up to ensure that the compensation received is utilised for recharge of ground water. https://www.barandbench.com/news/ngt-impose-25-crore-environmental-compensation-on-bottlers-of-coca-cola-pepsi-in-up-for-illegal-extraction-of-groundwater  (07 March 2022)

The Tribunal wrote that the companies “are responsible for illegal extraction of ground water at least after expiry of NOCs, issued to them by CGWA. They continued to extract groundwater without any authority. Further, they are also liable to pay environmental compensation for causing loss to environment by failing to comply with the most crucial condition of NOCs, i.e., recharge of water.” https://www.newsclick.in/NGT-fines-coca-Cola-bottler–2m-pepsiCo-cottler-%24-1.3m-damaging-environment-india  (05 March 2022)

MGNREGA Water harvesting, conservation structures starting to pay off  Workers must be allowed to participate in the actual planning exercises of the Gram Sabha, say beneficiaries. “The MGNREGA is not simply a social security scheme to generate employment for the rural poor. It may also be the world’s largest climate change adaptation scheme,” said CSE director Sunita Narain.

Over the last 15 years, three crore assets related to water-conservation have been created through the rural jobs scheme with the potential to conserve more than 28 Billion cubic metres of water. On the ground, this has transformed the fate of some villages.

In Palakkad district of Kerala, women workers have managed to revive streams and rivers in the water-scarce village of Pookkottukavu, which gets 2300 mm of annual rainfall. With hundreds of water harvesting structures being built under the MGNREGA scheme, 200 wells are now planned to make the village water-surplus.

In Vasna village of Gujarat’s Sabarkantha district, migration has reduced by 40% because of the extensive irrigation system created through small dams constructed under the program. “Earlier, the village was completely rain-dependent, but now the ponds and tanks provide surface water for 10 months of the year. Farming is back as the main occupation, and annual family savings are up to ₹2 lakh, preventing the need for migration,” said Ms. Narain. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/mgnrega-water-harvesting-conservation-structures-starting-to-pay-off/article34136368.ece  (23 March 2021)

MGNREGA’s role in saving water In the last 15 years, DTE notes, 30 million water conservation-related works — that translates to 50 works/village — have been undertaken through MGNREGA, creating a water conservation potential of close to 29 Billion cubic metres of water. For perspective, that is nearly 17% of the capacity of the 123 mega reservoirs that are monitored for storage by the Central Water Commission.

Similarly, Barmani in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi district, DTE reports, was virtually abandoned because of distress migration in 2006, but by 2021, it had 7 big ponds and 39 wells that had perennial water availability. TFE

DTE reports several benefits from MGNREGA water projects for villagers in 16 villages in 15 districts across India. While Bandlapalli in Ananthapuramu district of Andhra Pradesh — the first village in India where MGNREGA was implemented — saw recurring drought and large-scale migration in 2006, in 2021, it has 900-plus water harvesting structures.

The water-harvesting capacity helped it become drought-proof; in 2018-19, when the district reported the lowest rainfall in a century, the village was not impacted. Water harvesting has also helped many villagers to transition into cultivation of cash crops and dairy farming, and has caused a significant reduction in migration. Similarly, Barmani in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi district, DTE reports, was virtually abandoned because of distress migration in 2006, but by 2021, it had 7 big ponds and 39 wells that had perennial water availability. https://www.financialexpress.com/economy/on-world-water-day-celebrate-mgnregas-role-in-saving-water/2218072/  (23 March 2021)

Editorial Ensuring Water Security This Down to Earth report on the exemplary use of MGNREGA funds for rainwater harvesting and water conservation by 15 villages — the jal yodhas (water warriors) — across the country since 2006 is illuminating. It shines light on how to stop large tracts of fertile land from turning into barren wasteland.  https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/editorials/ensuring-water-security-229074  (23 April 2021)

Recording of ACWADAM webinar “Reimagining Groundwater Governance (gwG) with a special emphasis on India” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-cgTxtRI0s&feature=youtu.be

Maharashtra Over 1100 ponds built along E-way to help drought-prone farmers Over 1,100 artificial farm ponds and check dams have been built along the Nagpur-Mumbai Samruddhi Mahamarg by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corp (MSRDC) in Vidarbha and Marathwada region over the last three years keeping in mind the drought faced by farmers in these regions almost every year. As farmers in Vidarbha & Marathwada face water scarcity, govt officials say that these new ponds and check dams will help store over 25 Million Cubic Meters of water that can be used by them after the monsoon. The soil obtained by digging of ponds has been utilised for the elevation & construction of the expressway.

A farm pond built along the Expressway. (Express)

According to officials, the new farm ponds and deepening and broadening of check dams or rivulets (deepening and broadening of rivulets is clearly not welcome) have increased the water storage capacity of farmers in the area. It is expected that this will improve farm produce in the region as farmers would now be able to produce crops that they could not earlier due to scarcity of water after monsoon. The scheme has been implemented by MSRDC following the nod from Maharashtra govt to build these ponds alongside the Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg as part of water storage and management. Under the plan, the soil from the dug-up ponds along with the deepened and broadened rivulets was utilised for construction of expressway. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/maharashtra-over-1000-ponds-built-drought-prone-farmers-7749056/  (31 Jan. 2022)

Haryana First ever village level groundwater survey In the first-ever village-level survey on water table, the Haryana Water Resources (Conservation, Regulation & Management) Authority (HWRA) has reported that 25.9 % of villages in the state fall under the “Severely groundwater stressed” category. The survey covered 6,885 villages. The data is for Jun 2020. 1780 villages fall in this category, the depth of water table has reached over 30 m.

Earlier, the Central Ground Water Board used to bring out the block-level data on groundwater stressed areas. But with the formation of the HWRA, the village-level projections have been made by dividing these into seven categories. There are 1,261 villages in “Good groundwater potential” having water table depth from 5m-10m, 319 in “Potential waterlogged” having a depth of 1.5m-3m, and 85 in “Severely waterlogged” with a depth of less than 1.5m, categories. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/groundwater-situation-critical-in-26-of-state-villages-says-survey-359467  (09 Jan. 2022)

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

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