Water Options

World Water Day 2022: Positive Water Stories from India

This report on World Water Day 2022 highlights the positive impacts of initiative taken by individual, communities, civil societies and government schemes towards revival and protection of water sources in India over the past one year. These efforts show how conservation, restoration and management of water resources including springs, step-wells, ponds, lakes, tanks etc. at local level are far better, cost effective and efficient solutions in comparison to big water projects which in immediate and long term cause more damages than benefits to hydrological cycle, local community, environment apart from incurring huge construction and operating costs. SANDRP has also published media compilation on positive groundwater stories and urban water options on World Water Day 2022 occasion.

Reviving the springs

Bringing springs back PSI launched rejuvenation of springs program, not just to conserve the water culture of Uttarakhand but also ensure villagers received water supply. People Science Institute (PSI) undertook revival of 100 springs in 50 villages of Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Sikkim & Arunachal Pradesh. https://www.civilsocietyonline.com/rural-reporter/when-springs-dry-up-in-the-hills-psi-brings-them-back/  (12 July 2021) https://www.civilsocietyonline.com/rural-reporter/when-springs-dry-up-in-the-hills-psi-brings-them-back/  (25 July 2021)

A trench being dug in a recharge area (Civil Society)

Uttarakhand Spring revival project offers hope A researcher explains how a grassroots organisation in Uttarakhand has devised a scientific method to combat growing water scarcity as global heating alters the region’s natural systems.  https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/livelihoods/springs-uttarakhand-project-climate-change-himalayas/  (26 Aug. 2021)

IFS officer revives 66 springs This report claims that IFS officer Dharam Singh Meena and his team have revived 66 Himalayan springs, helping 23 villages in Tehri Garhwal. https://www.thebetterindia.com/268014/uttarakhand-ifs-officer-dharam-singh-meena-water-conservation-river-revival/  (07 Dec. 2021)

Arunachal Pradesh Rejuvenating springs The community’s effort to grasp the various facets of the issue and mobilize themselves is essential to develop effective interventions. Through this adaptive strategy of scientific and traditional knowledge systems, Jongjong Gapsa Ri is being rehabilitated. The villagers, now trained in taking discharges and rainfall readings are continuously monitoring the discharge of the spring and are also enthusiastic about reviving other threatened springs. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/rejuvenating-springs-western-arunachal-pradesh-0 (9 June 2021)

Restoring Step-wells

Himachal Pradesh 130 stepwells in rejuvenation mode Dharamshala block development office launched ‘Rahiman Paani Rakhiye’ project that is aimed at restoration of 130 stepwells in Dharamshala town and surrounding villages. Under the project, four key factors will be taken care of — hydrological intervention, recharge intervention, storage and regulation. The activities to be undertaken in the restoration project involve reserving the source of stepwells, ensuring good connectivity; fencing; separating the bathing area and animal drinking space.

The structures would also be covered. Besides, additional flowing water will be tapped by constructing a tank or soak pit nearby the stepwells. Proper drainage channels surrounding the wells will be constructed to minimise chemical surface run-off. Plantation will be also done around the spring. The funds will be spent under MGNREGA in convergence with 15th finance commission. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/rahiman-paani-rakhiye-130-stepwells-in-rejuvenation-mode-in-hp-s-dharamshala-101618861894674.html (20 April 2021)

Telangana Govt digs in to revive heritage stepwells The state government will take up the restoration of all defunct, dilapidated and historically significant stepwells in and around Hyderabad, now that the restoration work of Bansilalpet stepwell in Secunderabad is in progress. There are around 140 stepwells in the state, including 60 in Hyderabad. However, barring a few such as Bhagwandas Bagh and Shiva Bagh Baoli Gudimalkapur stepwell which was recently cleaned, two stepwells inside the Mah Laqa Bai Chanda’s maqbara which were restored nearly 10 years ago, Pushkarni at Sita Ramachandra Swamy Temple in Ramanajpur, and the open well at Moula Ali are in a bad state.

The MAUD department is currently undertaking restoration project of a heritage stepwell at Bansilalpet. The government has been working with the Hyderabad Design Forum (HDF) to identify such stepwells. The forum has recently submitted a list of 100 wells in the state to MAUD department. The authorities have decided to shortlist the wells which will get a facelift and take up works in a phased manner. One stepwell in Bapu Ghat, one in Gachibowli and two in Kokapet are the ones that are soon going to undergo restoration work. The officials in coordination with a few experts have incorporated methods to recharge the groundwater as part of their stepwell restoration project. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/t-digs-in-to-revive-heritage-stepwells/articleshow/85500439.cms  (21 Aug. 2021)

Maharashtra Mapping step-wells: Rohan Kale sets an example A conservationist has set an example how community mobilisation and participation of people can create wonders for water conservation. Rohan Kale, a Human Resource professional has successfully mapped and documented 1650 step wells across the state in an effort to revive the dying natural water sources. He has travelled over 14,000 km across the state.

– Kale’s love for historical structures made him to map different monuments and in the process he learnt the importance of reviving the drying step wells. What started as a passion last year has now turned into a conservation project and Kale is also getting support from 14 architecture colleges for his campaign. https://www.news18.com/news/mission-paani/community-participation-in-water-conservation-maharashtras-rohan-kale-sets-an-example-4865729.html  (14 March 2022) World Water Heritage 23-AUG-2021, by Ms. Victoria Lautman and Mr. Rohan Kale https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4qIQ8VxIL0  (23 Aug. 2021)

Hyderabad Step wells were once an elaborate water management system in Hyderabad, helping slake the city’s thirst and keep the water table up. The city’s administration, with the help of private bodies, is now at work to revive some of them. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/in-frames-a-step-up-for-groundwater/article65242969.ece/photo/1/  (20 March 2022)

Report How restoring step wells can help reduce water crisis.  https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20211012-the-ancient-stepwells-helping-to-curb-indias-water-crisis  (13 Aug. 2021)

Creating, protecting waterbodies

Himachal Pradesh ‘Forest Ponds’ to Harvest Rainwater to Replenish Groundwater Under the Parvat Dhara scheme, the government has initiated rejuvenation of water sources and recharging aquifers through the forest department with an outlay of Rs 20 crore. The department spent Rs 2.76 crore in 2020-21 for the construction of 110 big and small ponds, 600 check dams and 12,000 contour trenches along with plantation to store water and recharge the aquifers. The work was started in 10 forest divisions that include Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Jogindernagar, Nachan, Parvati, Nurpur, Rajgarh, Nalagarh, Theog and Dalhousie. https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/himachal-pradesh-is-building-forest-ponds-to-harvest-rainwater-to-replenish-groundwater-3700958.html  (02 May 2021)

Uttarakhand Conserving Water in Himalayas By extensively creating small ponds, trenches and check dams, the Rudraprayag forest division has managed to store around one crore litres of water. The implementation of the idea to conserve rainwater in Rudraprayag has been taken from the traditional ways of chal khal system followed mostly in the Garhwal region. The villagers would dig small percolation pits on every bit of available land on the slopes that surrounded a drain line. The pits prevent water and soil erosion and also increases percolation. The rainwater infiltrates the soil and recharges the groundwater, and ultimately forms a river body.

Mr. Singh said “We have been doing this work for the past 2-3 years, but last year in particular we did it on a very large scale. Out of all the six ranges in the division, we selected areas which are vulnerable to fires. With the help of funds availed from the State CAMPA and Namami Gange scheme, we made around 1732 check dams of various types ranging from vegetative to crate wires and contour trenches were dug up in 330 ha of degraded Chir Pine forests. With this, around 612 water bodies of different capacities were created with a total water retention capacity of more than 1 crore litres.” https://indianmasterminds.com/features/change-makers/conserving-water-in-the-himalayas/  (23 June 2021)

IAS officer Mayur Dikshit goes all-out to revive water bodies. https://www.newindianexpress.com/good-news/2021/mar/21/uttarakhand-ias-officer-mayur-dikshit-goesall-out-to-revive-water-bodies-2279350.html  (21 March 2021)

West Bengal Mobilising communities against encroachment of water bodies  Tapas Das, a river and water body conservationist based out of Kolkata, is leading the fight to save several local natural water bodies. “While I was actively involved in student politics during my college days, I grew concerned with several developments around me that adversely impacted water bodies. That was when I got inspired to work on river conservation,” he recalls.  The work of Das has not only been limited to the urban centres but has also reached far off rural areas like Tapan, a village in the northern district of Dakshin Dinajpur, West Bengal. The village is named after a huge local water body – ‘Tapan Dighi’ (Dighi means lake in Bengali). The local administration is currently building a wall around the lake to ‘protect’ it. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/mobilising-communities-against-encroachment-water-bodies  (20 Aug. 2021)

Can an App Save 198 Lakes & Ponds? Meet the IAS Officer Showing How It’s Done (The Better India)

Puducherry IAS Officer using App to save ponds In the  In the water-stressed district of Puducherry, IAS officer Dr T Arun developed Neer Padhivu, a mobile app through which he launched a water conservation project to revive lakes, ponds and canals.  https://www.thebetterindia.com/256877/puducherry-water-conservation-app-ias-hero-officer-dr-t-arun-neer-padhivu-lake-pond-revival-digitalisation-geotagging-unique-id-numbers-environment-conservation-gop94/  (16 June 2021)

IWP This report highlights consistent and tireless water conservation efforts of five Indians.  https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/not-all-heroes-wear-capes-some-fight-amongst-us  (24 June 2021)

Harvesting Rain Water

Becoming water abundant by harvesting rainwater India Water Portal presents some inspiring stories of individuals and organisations in India that have adopted exemplary ways to combat water scarcity through harvesting rainwater. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/stories-change-becoming-water-abundant-harvesting-rainwater  (12 July 2021)

The water was collected in an area of around 600 hectares in the Aravallis from rainfall of over 200mm received between July 18-19, 2021. HT

Gurugram 1,146 million litres per day of rainwater retained in Aravallis Gurugram district admin had created check dams to harvest rainwater in the forests. The initiative helped harvest 1,146 MLD of rainwater (during Jul 18-19 when city got 185 mm rain), equivalent to 4-5 day water supply for city. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/gurugram-news/1146-million-litres-per-day-of-rainwater-retained-in-aravallis-101626975184736.html  (22 July 2021)

Karnataka A new filtration system helps increased rainwater harvesting in Karnataka. https://www.thebetterindia.com/269117/rainwater-harvesting-technique-recharge-wells-how-to-karnataka-drought/  (15 Dec. 2021)

Rejuvenating Lakes

Jammu & Kashmir Srinagar lake dying for 30 yrs restored In late Feb 2021, a local environmental organisation Nigeen Lake Conservation Organisation (NLCO) took the initiative to clean the water body. During the restoration attempt, about 15-20 truckloads of weed, silt and waste were taken out of the lake every day for about three months. “We were able to clear some 1000 truckloads of unwanted material and within 100 days, the lake was restored and three navigational tracks were made up-to Saidpora,” Wangnoo said. The locals were delighted to see the lake restored and were determined not to let it get polluted again.

Following the success, the administration has started the work to revive the adjoining Gilsar Lake. “The rejuvenation of Khushal Sar and Gilsar Lakes in Srinagar is one of the best examples of civil society and government working together to rejuvenate water bodies. The SMC has lifted around 820 trucks of muck, silt and weed from these two lakes in the past 60 days alone,” said SMC commissioner, Athar Amir Khan.

Srinagar’s district development commissioner (DDC) Mohammad Aijaz Asad said the restoration of lakes will reactivate the original water navigation circuit in Srinagar district. Asad said he has asked for surveillance and intensification of anti encroachment drives to ensure these lakes remained protected. “We will take strict action as per law against those indulging in littering and dumping of garbage into these natural resources,” he said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/srinagar-lake-dying-for-30-yrs-restored-to-revive-old-water-channel-101624965077117.html  (29 June 2021)

Karnataka Mission to restore dilapidated temples, lakes Braving reptiles and brambles, hundreds of National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers, students and civil servant and competitive exam aspirants are on a mission to restore lakes, ponds, kalyanis (temple tanks), ancient temples and other structures in Mysuru and Mandya regions, which lie in a state of neglect. Over the past four years, this group of NSS volunteers from Seshadripuram Degree College in Mysuru, and volunteers of Achievers’ Academy in Srirangapatna have given a new lease of life to at least 10 kalyanis, four lakes and many temples ruined by the vagaries of nature and time.

NSS volunteers, students and civil servant and competitive exam aspirants are on a mission to restore lakes, ponds, kalyanis (temple tanks), ancient temples and other structures in Mysuru and Mandya regions, which lie in a state of neglect. (TNIE)

Most of the tanks, lakes and temples they take up for revival are more than a century old and are said to be built during the period of erstwhile Mysuru kings and Tipu Sultan. “Many tanks would have dried up or become polluted with waste or construction debris. These places were once a lifeline to many in the surroundings, and temple priests would take water from the tanks to offer puja. Ours is an attempt to not only revive them, but also make people aware about their historical importance,” says Raghavendra. Though the task looks simple for a layman, it is not. Students and volunteers manually clear the weeds and remove muck, and no machines are involved. https://www.newindianexpress.com/good-news/2021/oct/31/refurbishing-history-this-group-is-on-mission-to-restore-dilapidated-temples-lakes-in-karnataka-2377862.html  (31 Oct. 2021)

Dried Up Lake In Yelwal Filled Up After 20 Years ! Thanks to the efforts of Sri Dharmasthala Gramabhivrudhi Yojane’s B.C.Trust, the dried up Karakanahalli Chikkakere near Yelwal in the taluk, is now full to the brim with water. Noting that rejuvenation of a lake also meant recharge of wells, borewells etc., and sustenance of birds and animals in the surroundings, he said that this was the 369th water body to be developed by the Trust. Pointing out that 7 water bodies have been rejuvenated in Mysuru district at a total cost of Rs. 45 lakh, he highlighted the support of Karakanahalli villagers, who pooled in Rs. 2.5 lakh for rejuvenation of Chikkakere. https://starofmysore.com/dried-up-lake-in-yelwal-filled-up-after-20-years/  (18 Dec. 2021)

Gujarat Mumbai group to revive lakes, solve water crisis in Kutch Second and third generation Kutchi businessmen come together to resolve the issue of drought and stop the migratory trends. https://www.mid-day.com/mumbai/mumbai-news/article/mumbai-group-to-revive-lakes-solve-water-crisis-in-gujarats-kutch-23217251  (07 March 2022)


Ladakh Artificial glacier gains popularity to solve water crisis People in several areas of Kargil and Leh districts in Ladakh have started creating artificial glaciers in many areas to overcome water scarcity in summers. Besides solving the water crisis, these inventive stupas have also become an important tourist attraction in Ladakh. “We face difficulties in summers when there are minimal water resources available for agriculture, thus over the years we have started creating artificial glaciers in many areas near to our fields that help us in irrigation during summer season for farming ” Asgar Ali, a local from Kargil said.

When the warmer, arid growing season arrives, the lower altitude streams quickly dry up and there is little water available again until June when the glaciers provide meltwater again. It is in this crucial window that the Ice Stupas start melting, offering an invaluable source of water for irrigation early in the growing season, extending the cropping season by a few weeks – which makes all the difference in this extreme agricultural environment.

People in several areas of Kargil and Leh districts in Ladakh have started creating artificial glaciers in many areas to overcome water scarcity in summers. Special arrangement/ Greater Kashmir

Prominent Social activist from Kargil, Sajad Hussain Kargili said that these artificial glaciers are also called as ‘Gangri’ in local Balti and Purgi languages. He said that the government should come in support for creating such artificial glaciers here that will help to overcome water scarcity to a great extent. “At the time when the government is talking tall over the Jal Jeevan mission scheme, it should focus on maintaining the glaciers and preservation of ecology and environment of this eco fragile region” Kargili said.  https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/front-page/artificial-glacier-innovation-gains-popularity-to-solve-ladakhs-water-crisis-in-summers  (25 Jan. 2022)

Uttar Pradesh Villagers make & break dam every year People at Khamaria village in Baheri block of Bareilly district are engaged in constructing a temporary earthen dam at Bahgul river to store water and divert it through canals for irrigation. However, this is not unusual. Year after year, for over five years, the locals here have been building storage dams for storing water to irrigate acres of land spread over 125 villages in three Assembly constituencies — Baheri and Meerganj in Bareilly and Bilaspur in Rampur. These villages don’t have any other source of irrigation apart from the dam. But with the onset of monsoon, they have to break the earthen dam — as per the law — by June 25 every year after the river is flooded, failing which the other areas run the risk of being inundated. https://www.newsclick.in/why-people-village-make-and-break-dam-every-year  (28 Nov. 2021)

Assam Supplying arsenic-free groundwater to villagers The project has brought together civil society organisations and village associations to install and manage machines that dispense safe water. Barigaon’s ATM was the first of its kind in the state. Five more have been installed, although only three of those are operational. A Gramya Vikash Mancha staff member said that work was underway to repair the mechanics.

Achintya Bezbaruah said that the state government has plans to install 172 similar ATMs to prevent arsenic poisoning in Assam, following the success of the model in Barigaon. The main challenge is not technology, but cooperation. The sustainability of such initiatives is dependent on whether local institutions support them or not, said Eklavya Prasad, managing trustee at Megh Pyne Abhiyan, a public charitable trust working on water stress in eastern India. https://scroll.in/article/1000666/in-assam-an-atm-is-supplying-arsenic-free-groundwater-to-villagers  (23 July 2021)

Jharkhand Cloths from water hyacinth  Sarees will be made using the fiber extracted from water hyacinth in the same way they are extracted from jute. The initiative is the brainchild of Gaurav Anand, an environmental engineering graduate currently working with the Tata Steel Utilities and Infrastructure Services in Jamshedpur. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/oct/17/jamshedpur-man-to-use-fiber-extracted-from-water-hyacinth-to-make-sarees-2372302.html  (17 Oct. 2021)

Kerala Engineering students’ invention to aid water conservation The device placed in tanks will also help in sending alerts to the user in case of leakages. Though only the prototype has been developed, the students are planning to work on the application on a larger scale after they finish college. The team has also secured the second prize in ‘Envirothon’. https://www.newindianexpress.com/good-news/2021/oct/12/kerala-engineering-students-invention-to-aid-water-conservation-2370454.html  (12 Oct. 2021)

The drinking water tank set up for a tribal hamlet in Chengalpattu district by students of Madras Christian College | express

Chennai College project ends tribals’ struggle for potable water After three generations of struggle, a tribal hamlet of 30 families in Chengalpattu district finally got access to the drinking water supply when a group of Madras Christian College students set up a water tank for them on Sept. 11. https://www.newindianexpress.com/good-news/2021/sep/12/chennai-college-project-ends-tribalsstruggle-for-potable-water-2357546.html  (12 Sept. 2021)    

Delhi Students construct machine to do away with manual scavenging A team of five students from Shiv Nadar School Gurugram has created a “lightweight, cost-effective and technologically advanced” sewer cleaner prototype called ‘Sewage Squad’, to “replace manual with a mechanised method of sewer cleaning”. The prototype uses a water jet mechanism “to lacerate large sewage particles, followed by metallic cutters to cut through the sludge and finally a suction pump to suck out the sludge from the sewers”. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/delhi-school-kids-construct-machine-to-do-away-with-manual-scavenging-7655215/ (4 Dec 2021)

321 people have died cleaning sewers in last five years, Centre tells Lok Sabha. India currently has 58,098 manual scavengers. https://scroll.in/latest/1012316/ (8 Dec 2021)

Watershed Management

Book Review Watershed: How we destroyed India’s water & how we can save it by Bharat Sharma Watershed has two main parts of ‘understanding’ and ‘action’ describing the facets, fault-lines, and stressors of India’s water resources. Understanding the science and temperament of the unique Indian monsoon—the foundation of our total water—establishes that populous, developing, and one of the most vulnerable countries in this warming world, India must manage its water differently. The better we understand the monsoon, the better we can plan what and when to cultivate, where to habitat our population and economic centres, and how to guard against storms or droughts. When policies and major programmes (called revolutions) disrespect the variations and cultivate crops that can’t be feasible with a region’s water endowments, we develop a deep water fault-line. https://www.financialexpress.com/lifestyle/making-each-drop-count-book-review-watershed-how-we-destroyed-indias-water-and-how-we-can-save-it-by-mridula-ramesh/2389485/ (26 Dec 2021)

Blog Conceptualising Small Watersheds as Infrastructures In this blog, originally published as one of the inaugural Environment and History ‘Snapshots’ in February 2022, Shashank Deora and Pankaj Sekhsaria discuss rural to urban distress-migration in India and the role small watersheds might play as ‘infrastructures of desirable immobility.

Digging off a percolation tank, Bastar district, Chhattisgarh state in India. Photo copyright: Badal Kumar Mandal. (whitehorsepress)

Studying the emergence & operation of small watersheds as infrastructures of immobility can improve the understanding of the challenges to maintaining healthy watersheds that force mobility upon the rural population. It requires more context-specific research into when & how a watershed fails as an infrastructure of desirable immobility for the poor & vulnerable sections of rural communities; what events, negotiations & decisions lead to this failure; and what are the consequences of this infrastructural failure for the diverse actors around the watershed? https://whitehorsepress.blog/2022/03/10/conceptualising-small-watersheds-as-infrastructures-of-immobility-to-address-distress-induced-rural-urban-migration-in-india/ (10 Mar 2022)

Maharashtra Swiss Jesuit who revolutionised watershed development Hermann Bacher, who spent 60 of his 97 years in India, was deeply impacted by the Maharashtra drought of 1972; it led him to recalibrate his developmental approach. This meant that in rain-dependent rural Maharashtra, a shift had to be made from ‘resource exploitation’ to sustainable resource use, or ‘resource mobilisation’, as he described it. People had to shift from over extracting and mining groundwater to harvesting rainwater, wherever it fell, conserving it and allowing it to sink underground to recharge the ground water table. Since rain fell in the watersheds and landscapes villagers lived in, the only way to harvest and conserve rainwater wherever it fell was to undertake watershed development measures. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/water/hermann-bacher-the-swiss-jesuit-who-revolutionised-watershed-development-in-india-79626  (10 Oct. 2021)

Woman fetching water from a well dug by the village folks from Purushwadi. Photo: Mahadu Chindhu Kondar (Vikalp Sangam)

A village transformed parched land to lush fields A teacher and guide from  Purushwadi village shares how the collective efforts of village residents and experts helped contain the water crisis in the village https://vikalpsangam.org/article/every-drop-counts-how-a-village-in-maharashtra-transformed-parched-land-to-lush-fields/  (25 Aug. 2021)

The latest on watershed efforts by Paani Foundation. Write up from India Water Portal. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/how-paani-foundation-harnesses-power-communication-social-transformation  (04 Sept. 2021)

Prosperity has come to Kadawanchi village in Marathwada in a big way due to watershed management. Its annual income has shot up from Rs 74 lakh in 2000 to a whopping Rs 72 crore in 2019! https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/india/how-this-drought-prone-village-in-maharashtra-became-water-sufficient-6696561.html  (26 March 2021)

Uttarakhand Reaping a rich harvest by conserving water ‘Gramya Project’ has benefitted more than 54,000 families. The project aims to conserve catchment areas of water bodies such as rivers, lakes and ponds, helping to increases horticulture produce and catalysing other agricultural activities. Helmed by the state Watershed Management Directorate and funded by the World Bank, the project entails implementing water conversation and harvesting in about 2.638 lakh ha spread across 8 dists and 18 development blocks. It helps 524 gram panchayats with a combined land of about 66,300 ha, targeting 3 lakh population. https://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/2021/jul/18/uttarakhand-reaping-a-rich-harvest-byconserving-water-2331707.html  (18 July 2021)

Water Options for Agriculture

Chhattisgarh Farmer’s innovation helps cut water wastage A prototype water-retention manure of agriculture post-graduate in village Dhamdha of Durg district, is not only being exported to overseas but improving the barren land in few months. The water-retention formulation prevents water depletion in soil by using biodegradable ingredients, which enhances the water holding capacity of the soil multi-folds. The granular formulation improves the soil productivity and reduces the irrigation frequency in fields upto 50% leading to conserving water, time, manpower and money.

Farmer Yogesh Sonkar, whose developed formulation has been exported to several countries. ToI

Yogesh Sunkar, 32, has developed the prototype water-retention manure from potassium-based cellulose in three years after he was moved by an international institution’s report claiming that majority of farmers are abandoning the agriculture farming due to shortage of water and many farmers are committing suicide in India due to its scarcity. The regular application of this product increase the water table in the area of application. The product is promising for the farmers in the drought prone areas. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/raipur/chhattisgarh-durg-farmers-innovation-helps-cut-water-wastage-boosts-yield/articleshow/88024929.cms  (01 Dec. 2021)

The Karula river is back to a healthy state as water saved in sugarcane cultivation has been pumped back to the river. Photo courtesy WWF-India. (Mongabay)

Uttar Pradesh Conserved water goes to river The trench method of sugarcane farming that was started in some dists in 2017, conserves water which is then pumped back into the Karula river, a tributary of the Ramganga. About 300 farmers in the sugarcane-producing districts of Uttar Pradesh have been able to reduce water usage using trench farming and they have saved an estimated 60 million litres of water between 2019 & 2021. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/08/with-water-saving-sugarcane-cultivation-conserved-water-goes-to-river/  (09 Aug. 2021)

Report 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)

Ranjita Pegu’s income has increased considerably since she started to grow a flood-resistant variety of rice (Image: Varsha Torgalkar)

Assam New varieties of rice help farmers in flood-prone areas Flood-tolerant rice developed by Assam Agricultural University. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/livelihoods/flood-tolerant-rice-helps-farmers-in-assam/  (31 May 2021)

Punjab Patiala village uses unique method to treat wastewater The wastewater treatment plant in Dhingi village uses the Seechewal method to use treated wastewater for irrigation and prevent further pollution of groundwater. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/agriculture/patiala-village-uses-unique-method-to-treat-wastewater-76345  (07 April 2021)

Traditional farming helps preserve groundwater The endeavours of the Bishnois in Bazidpur village is helping in reducing groundwater levels 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)

Maharashtra Natural Sugar and Allied Industries Ltd, a private mill in Kalamb taluka of Osmanabad dist, has managed to bring over 60% of its total 10,000 ha of sugarcane under drip irrigation. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/how-a-mill-in-arid-marathwada-motivates-cane-farmers-to-opt-for-better-water-management-system-7562959/ (10 Oct 2021)                  

Report Against the Grain How natural farming is growing international alliances in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh https://caravanmagazine.in/agriculture/how-natural-farming-is-growing-international-alliances-in-karnataka-ap  (05 Aug. 2021)

Uttarakhand Padma award for innovations in agriculture Prem Chand Sharma, a 63-yr-old farmer, has been awarded Padma Shri for his contribution to high yield fruit and vegetable production using organic methods without the use of chemicals in remote Hatal-Sainj hilly village. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/uttarakhand-farmer-gets-padma-award-for-innovations-in-agriculture-101611661163531.html  (26 Jan. 2021)

Haryana According to a survey in Rabi 2020, 45 % of the farmers doing self-sufficient organic farming in Haryana got wheat yield more than the average yield of chemical farming. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/hindistory/agriculture/farmers/in-haryana-the-stronghold-of-chemical-farming-farmers-got-more-wheat-yield-from-organic-farming-survey-79216  (27 Sep 2021)

Green Toilets

Report Dry toilets can help mainstream organic farming Scientists have come up with a potentially safe microbial concoction that can revive the water-conserving traditional dry toilets in cold deserts in India to manage human waste and cater to local agroecological needs.

Dry toilets compost human excreta to generate organic manure for local farmers in Himachal and neighbouring Ladakh. However, this practice in recent decades has taken a hit. Ladakh’s mission to mainstream organic farming by 2025 banks on dry toilets as one of the measures towards realising its objectives in organic farming and carbon neutrality. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/08/microbial-boost-to-himalayan-dry-toilets-can-help-mainstream-organic-farming/  (11 Aug. 2021)

Recycled pee could save the world Pam Elardo, who leads the Bureau of Wastewater Treatment as a deputy commissioner in the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, says she supports innovations such as urine diversion, because further reducing pollution and recovering resources are key goals for her utility. The most practical and cost-effective approach to urine diversion for a city such as New York, she foresees, would be off-grid systems for renovated or new buildings, supported by maintenance and collection operations. If innovators can work that out, she says, “they should go for it”.

Specialized toilet systems recover nitrogen and other nutrients from urine for use as fertilizers and other products. Credit: MAK/Georg Mayer/EOOS NEXT

Larsen predicts that mass production and automation of urine-diversion technologies could be around the corner. And that would improve the business cases for this transformation in dealing with waste. Urine diversion “is the right technology”, she says. “It’s the only technology which can solve the problem of nutrients from households in a reasonable time. But people have to dare.” https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00338-6 (9 Feb 2022)

Innovative sewage solutions While wastewater pollution is a dangerous multi-headed hydra, there are a plethora of technologies and innovations being tested and implemented to tackle it. Efforts are currently underway across the world not only to treat wastewater and offer adequate sanitation, but also to recover and reuse the valuable nutrients and freshwater we flush away daily as waste. https://news.mongabay.com/2022/01/innovative-sewage-solutions-tackling-the-global-human-waste-problem/   (25 Jan. 2022)

Water Culture, Practices & Traditional Structures

The tightly knit tribal society also advocates community action for solving issues (Image: AKRSP/IWP)

Halma practice for water resource development Collective action for water resource development through Halma by tribal groups. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/revival-tribal-practice-water-resource-development-0  (15 Feb. 2022)

KG Vyas: The water structures constructed during the Gond period continue to survive the test of time & provide evidence of their water wisdom. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/water-management-times-gonds-central-india (13 Jan 2022)

Tamil Nadu Centuries-old system can teach how to save water  A13th century stone edict, found inside the Perur Patteeswarar temple near Coimbatore, describes the creation of a nearby lake and lays down rules for a water-sharing arrangement between upstream and downstream regions along the Noyyal river. Starting 8th century, the Chola kings and farmers in the region masterfully developed an interconnected system of Anaicuts  (check dams), canals and natural and manmade lakes to ensure that the river water was managed efficiently. The system mimicked the natural rhythms of the seasonal river flows and was built keeping in mind the contours of the land. Unfortunately, this traditional nature-based solution fell into disuse as the region rapidly urbanised and water management of the area changed hands.

Across India, there are similar traditional water management systems that provide invaluable ecosystem services. The East Kolkata Wetland complex, spread over 12,500 ha, treats almost all of Kolkata city’s sewage and supports livelihood for 20,000 families through agriculture and fisheries. Water diversion from Ajan bund in Rajasthan, created in the 17th century by Maharaja Suraj Mal in a natural depression in the land, is today the famous UNESCO world heritage site of Keoladeo (Bharatpur) national park. The Yeri (earthen bund) system of agricultural water management, seen across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, has been enabling cultivation in dry plains for a millennium.  https://theprint.in/opinion/this-centuries-old-system-in-tamil-nadu-can-teach-india-how-to-save-water-again/624887/  (21 March 2021)

Madhya Pradesh Unique method of harvesting crops The state has several traditional ways of water harvesting. There is still a unique method of harvesting crops after drying water collected in fields in upper Narmada valley of which few people know. This practice known as haveli system is widely practiced in Jabalpur, Narsinghpur, in some parts of Damoh & Sagar dists in over 1.4 lakh ha. With change in cropping pattern this system is disappearing. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/hindistory/water/traditional-water-harvesting/Unique-method-of-harvesting-crops-after-drying-by-storing-water-in-the-fields-78554  (30 Aug. 2021)

Uttarakhand Water conservation work of Sachchidananda Bharati “In the hills, there exists a traditional method of water conservation called Chalkhal. That is, it involves digging a big pit to collect water,” PM Modi said as he gave an example of Satchidanand Bharti, a resident of Pauri in district and winner of 2015 Bhagirath Prayas Samman award from India Rivers Forum.

“Using this tradition, Satchinand Bharti continuously made small and big ponds… With this, not only the hill of Ufrainkhal became greener, but the problem of drinking water was also solved,” he told his listeners. Bharati has built “more than 30,000 such water ponds” over the years, PM Modi said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/water-conservation-is-service-to-nation-pm-modi-on-mann-ki-baat-101624778809485.html (27 Jun 2021)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vu6GBlm2fvY  (28 June 2021)

Bihar A well weds banyan tree!

“The wedding is organised to purify the water and make it potable,” said Ashok Kumar Pandey, priest, Bihar. Photo: By arrangement/Gaon Connection.

Interesting, how entire villages in Bihar and Jharkhand get together to organise this Kuan Vivah to get blessings from Nature & also clean up local water sources. https://en.gaonconnection.com/well-wedding-jharkhand-bihar-water/ (5 Apr 2021)

Basiya Pavan or Jur Sital — the Maithili New Year — is a water festival celebrated by Maithilis in the Mithila region of India and Nepal, and falls on Mesh Sankranti (April 14). Jur Sital means freezing cold. Jur Sital is also called Nirayana Mesh Sankranti and Tirhuta New Year, and villagers sprinkle ‘old water’ from water bodies on each other. Thal-Kado, the silt that is a byproduct of the extraction process, comes in handy when playing Holi. People believe it lends them ample strength to tackle the heat of the summer. Water is also stored in earthen, bronze, copper and brass pots the night before. “It is customary to sprinkle the same water on our maath (head), gaach (plants) and baat (street). The blessings would follow — jurail rahiye, thandaiyail rahiye [stay cool] — to help one beat the heat in the searing summer. In keeping with the meaning of Jur Sital, the water stored the previous night is said to have a cooling effect on those it is sprinkled upon. https://en.gaonconnection.com/bihar-jur-sital-maithili-new-year-festivals-tradition-culture/  (14 April 2021)

Karnataka Tanks: Sharing land, water in scarcity By Vishwanath S Tanks have fallen into disrepair for lack of a clear community ownership; but farmers, mostly women, are now being paid for its upkeep. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/water/tanks-in-karnataka-sharing-land-water-at-a-time-of-scarcity-78776  (01 Sept. 2021)

Women Water Champions

UNDP 41 Indian women recognised as ‘water champions’ 41 women felicitated by UNDP  have been trained by Oxfam India under its TROSA (Transboundary Rivers of South Asia) project. This project runs in the poorest of the riparian communities in Saralbhanga, lower Brahmaputra and Sharda river basins spread across India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal. Its objective is to reduce poverty by increasing communities’ access and control over riverine water resources. “We work with fisher folk, boat operators, farmers dependent on these rivers and even industries that use this water in 65 villages in India,” said Shobhit Chepe, lead consultant, TROSA. The project which is funded by the Swedish government has empowered women with the knowledge of their rights and entitlements related to water.

Aruna Das, a 44-year-old farmer and a water activist-conservationist in Amtula village in the Lakhimpur district of Assam is one of the water champion who have raised awareness around water and improved access to it. Das learnt the importance of water conservation the hard way. Her village is located in a flood-prone area. In 2017, a flood caused by an embankment upstream destroyed everything in her village – property, cattle, crops. It contaminated their drinking water and dumped sand in the fields leaving them uncultivable. With help from People’s Action for Development, an NGO and a partner of Oxfam India, Das learnt about water conservation and management. She brought women in her village together and raised her voice on the issue and ensured the successful completion of the construction of the embankment. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/41-indian-women-recognised-as-water-champions-by-un-body/articleshow/84234829.cms (10 Jul 2021)

Uttarakhand Women revive traditional water sources Maya Verma, a resident of Chanoli village in  Almora district, is a water champion who has helped revive naulas and dharas, traditional Himalayan water sources, in 15 villages of Almora.

Since October 2017, because of the efforts of Verma and her fellow village women, the revived naulas now have water in them throughout the year. Earlier, they would go dry in the summers. While naulas are found in the mid-Himalayan elevations, dharas mostly occur in the upper Himalayas, just below the snow line. https://vikalpsangam.org/article/women-revive-traditional-water-sources-in-uttarakhand/  (11 Nov. 2020)

Women Revive Traditional Chal-khals Over the last decade, it had become increasingly hard for Sartama Devi (55) to source water around her home in Patara village of Uttarkashi district. “Our water sources had been drying up with the diminishing monsoons. It has affected our livestock. In our fields, the koda-jhangora (Indian barn millet) crop had been withering away,” she said.

The members of SHG reviving an old, defunct chal-khal (Picture courtesy of Kamlesh Gururani)

Water springs in small amounts in these mountain villages and exhausts quickly as the villagers use it for daily chores and to meet their livestock’s needs. These natural springs were not sufficient for the 300 families in Patara village that have about 275 animals. These percolation pits are saving women the time and effort it takes to find and carry water over long distances. https://101reporters.com/article/Civic/As_mountain_springs_dry_up_Uttarkashi_women_revive_traditional_chalkhals  (24 Sept. 2021)

Nagaland Women Band To Revive 99 Springs A project led by 300 women and supported by experts and government departments has helped revive 99 springs in 89 villages across 36 districts, benefitting 12,000 households across the state. The move has enabled an increase in the water discharge capacity of the springs and stopped women from having to wander to far off regions in the hope of finding water. https://www.thebetterindia.com/254892/nagaland-spring-shed-management-process-revival-khrolhiweu-tsuhah-north-east-initiative-development-agency-neida-water-crisis-convseration-women-led-initiatives-india-environment-him16/  (11 May 2021)  

Bundelkhand ‘Jal Sahelis’ (friends of water) – a group of women working for water conservation and revival of ponds in Bundelkhand – have asked all political parties to include water conservation, revival of water bodies, demarcation of water structures, allotment of land and houses to the landless besides proper implementation of MGNREGA scheme, in their manifestos for the UP assembly polls in Apr 2022. The Jal Sahelis have already handed over their ‘water manifesto’ to heads of all political parties. https://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay?newsID=910824  (02 Jan. 2022)

Gujarat About work of Neeta Patel and AKRSP in South Gujarat tribal areas of Gujarat for water conservation. https://www.thebetterindia.com/275852/gujarat-neeta-patel-water-champion-villages-water-shortage-builds-dams/ 

Rajasthan Creating Abundance in Scarcity The water warriors of Rajasthan features four individuals and one entity who are creating abundance in scarcity by using ingenious ways to deal with the water crisis, combining their approach with a mix of traditional knowledge and modern techniques, and involving the communities to build an oasis of hope. In the process, they are greening the arid region, preventing land degradation, providing employment to the rural populace, empowering women, alleviating poverty, and tackling challenges of climate change with their humble endeavours, be it teenager Adhi Daiv who is working with Sikar native Sundaram Verma for greening the desert initiative.

Verma was conferred Padma Shri for planting 50,000+ trees in the arid Shekhawati region of Rajasthan with an 80% survival rate, using a water-saving technique ‘dryland agroforestry’ that requires only one litre of water per tree throughout its lifetime. Jal Bhagirathi Foundation has been addressing the water crises in the world’s most water distressed and densely populated arid zone, the Thar desert. On the other hand, Nagaur farmer Himmata Ram Bhambhu a.k.a. ‘Registan ke Ratna Ram’ who was felicitated with Padma Shri for his enviable contribution to the environment. He adores and reveres trees and has so far planted five and a half lakh saplings in desert areas of Rajasthan, using ingenious ways to water and see them grow into green giants.

And Padma Shri recipient Shyam Sunder Paliwal whose life revolves around water, daughter and trees. A resident of Rajsamund district in Rajasthan, Paliwal is the architect of the Piplantri Model that hinges on water conservation, environment protection and saving the girl child. https://www.freepressjournal.in/weekend/world-water-day-spotlighting-a-few-warriors-who-are-creating-abundance-in-scarcity (20 March 2022)

Alternatives to Ken-Betwa River Interlinking

Jakhni village shows the way Uma Shankar Pandey, a resident of Banda district of Bundelkhand, started the work of improving the water situation in his village Jakhni, 15 years ago. He initiated water conservation work through medbandi with the farmers without any government help. Today Jakhni village has sufficient water and has become a model for thousands of other villages in the country. Umashankar credits the success to the villagers and Jalgram Samiti. https://hindi.indiawaterportal.org/content/sukhagrast-gaon-ban-gaya-desh-ka-desh-ka-adarsh-model/content-type-page/1319336268  (02 Nov. 2021)

Their campaign, known as Khet ka pani khet mein, gaon ka pani gaon mein, has led to increasing the height of bunds in several hundred bighas of fields in the village. As a result, rainwater, prevented from running off, has begun to percolate into the ground.

“These people are also planning to plant trees on the bunds of the fields. Now farmers will get all three – water, trees and money. The village is getting recognised far and wide due to its good work,” he said. https://en.gaonconnection.com/narendra-modi-water-conservation-mann-ki-baat-uttarakhand-uttar-pradesh-monsoon/  (28 June 2021)

This mentions about positive impacts of Talab Bachao and Kuwan Bachao initiatives with active support from administration. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/banda-from-parched-land-to-a-water-positive-district/articleshow/86979184.cms  (13 Oct. 2021)

Some water options in Bundelkhand https://pannastories.blogspot.com/2021/03/blog-post_25.html  (25 March 2021)

Bundelkhand villagers revived river using MGNREGA funds In this parched region, a rivulet called Odi has water throughout the year. This stream is completely rainfed and only 20 km long. But when reporters visited in the middle of March it was still flowing. What could be the reason? What made this stream different from most of the other streams in the region? And what role did MGNREGS play in its revival? Odi starts at a place called Madawara, in Lalitpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Before it empties its water at the reservoir of the Jamni dam. But in this journey, Odi also satiates the water requirements of eight villages. Work on reviving the stream began in 2018 using funds from MGNREGA. The villagers & an NGO drew up a 3-step plan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tc2ySdzYdtI  (30 March 2021)

Reviving traditional water harvesting structures A CSO-led holistic tank rehabilitation initiative launched in 2017 to restore the Chandela and Bundela tanks.  https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/reviving-traditional-water-harvesting-structures (24 Aug 2021)

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

6 thoughts on “World Water Day 2022: Positive Water Stories from India

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