Water Options

World Water Day 2023: Positive Water Stories from India

This report highlights top ten positive water stories from rural India from last one year. SANDRP has been marking the World Water Day by presenting the stories of some remarkable efforts undertaken for protection, revival and management of water sources by individuals, local communities and governments.

1. Bundelkhand Small water conservation schemes stand out amidst push for ‘unviable’ mega Ken-Betwa project  In its planning for water conservation work Srijan has identified such work relating to doha pits as well as repair and renovation of already existing structures. Nearly 460 dohas have been dug in five districts under this programme.

In neighboring Niwari district, the experience of dohas dug in Gulenda village nullah has been particularly encouraging. Apart from more routine crops, here cultivation of flowers too has benefited from improved irrigation facilities.

Another benefit of such small scale water conservation works is that in such cases the prospects of involving the community in planning and implementation and benefitting from their tremendous knowledge of local conditions are immense and therefore such small water conservation schemes are invariably more creative and successful compared to big, costly, centralized ones.

Keeping in view the enormous potential of improving water availability from these and other small-scale schemes, clearly it would be advisable for official policy to give more attention to such schemes instead of blowing up most resources on mega projects of highly suspect value. (Bharat Dogra) https://www.counterview.net/2023/01/small-water-conservation-schemes-stand.html  (19 Jan. 2023) Bharat Dogra elaborates on need or protection and rejuvenation of the Bundelkhand tanks rather than going for destructive Ken Betwa Link project. https://countercurrents.org/2023/03/rejuvenation-of-small-water-bodies-the-key-to-ending-water-scarcity-in-bundelkhand/  (09 March 2023)

De-silting of tanks brings many-sided benefits In Bundelkhand region of Central India water tanks have constituted a very important component of efforts of communities to meet the water needs of people over the centuries. In particular the period of Chandela and Bundela rulers from 9th to 18th century has been identified as a time when royal patronage was extended to communities for creation of several thousand such structures, many of which are still admired for the wisdom of communities which helped to create these water-bodies with a very sound understanding of local conditions. https://countercurrents.org/2023/01/de-silting-of-tanks-with-community-participation-brings-many-sided-benefits/  (11 Jan. 2023)

2. Kerala Village sets model to overcome ground water scarcity Water conservation pits at all public institutions in the constituency, cleaning and maintenance of the wells and ponds, revival of paddy fields, improving the drains, setting up of check dams to slow down water flow and sourcing water from quarries were the major initiatives in Kattakada village in the suburbs of Thiruvanathapuram.

It was in 2017 that the project was initiated in this village 20 km from state capital. Pits with a capacity of 8,000 to 10,000 litres were taken close to existing wells in all public institutions in the region and the entire drain water was collected in these wells. All ponds in the regions were cleaned and inland fishing started in 116 ponds so as to ensure that the ponds remain clean. As many as 19,000 wells in the regions that used to dry up during summer were cleaned and recharged.

Drains and streams in the region were improved to ensure proper water flow and eight check dams were constructed to slow down water flow. Ground water level of the region is being continuously monitored by setting up scales in around 100 ponds. An automatic weather station was also set up in the region for rain estimation.

The net ground water availability of Kattakada region, about 20 km from Thiruvananthapuram city, has increased to 4,909.69 million cube metric (mcm) in 2020 from 4,241.93 mcm in 2017, while other nearby parts witnessed a fall during the period. The region that was earlier classified as ‘semi-critical’ for ground water availability is now a ‘safe-zone’.

A slew of water conservation measures initiated by the local MLA I B Sateesh of the CPM is considered to have delivered this positive trend, which is still being sustained. The Jalasamridhi project of Kattakada was initiated by the MLA by incorporating various government projects like Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. It is now being replicated at Thrithala in Palakkad district and Dharmadam in Kannur, which is the constituency of CM Pinarayi Vijayan. https://www.deccanherald.com/national/south/kerala-village-sets-model-to-overcome-ground-water-scarcity-1199109.html   (11 March 2023) 

3. Karnataka Groundwater monitoring yields encouraging results in Chikkaballapur villages The exercise, being spearheaded by India Observatory, Foundation of Ecological Security (FES) among the more than 100 non-profit organisations, seeks to create a water table map with granular data. In Bagepalli, groundwater monitoring exercises began with 99 open wells in the pre-monsoon days of 2020. Over the last two years, the number of wells monitored has gone up to 177. “This has improved location-specific granular data, which will in turn aid informed decision making at the village level for better usage and governance of water resources,” FES Senior Programme Manager Kiran Singh said. The agencies have adopted Groundwater Monitoring (GWM) Tool, a standard methodology for data collection to ensure data quality.

Speaking to DH, Kiran said, “The data uploaded to the portal is reviewed for errors. We have found a 5% error margin, which can be rectified. For us, groundwater data is one of the most important ways to show the impact of the work we do.” All-India campaign The organisations are now taking the movement to new places. In a first-of-its-kind volunteer driven initiative, more than 5,500 individuals will measure the groundwater levels across the country to crowdsource data. The exercise will also spread awareness of the importance of the commons. Sanjay Joshie, executive director of FES said that a campaign in six languages, including Kannada, Telugu, Marathi and Hindi, would be run to attract more participants in the GWM exercise. https://www.deccanherald.com/state/karnataka-districts/groundwater-monitoring-yields-encouraging-results-in-chikkaballapur-villages-1118502.html  (15 June 2022)

4. Rajasthan Greening of barren lands – the local way The Chauka system can not only provide a sustainable way to manage water resources in water stressed regions, but also support livelihoods through development of pastures. Many structures are used for rainwater harvesting in arid to semi-arid environments and one such example of localised solutions to catch the rainfall includes shallow infiltration ponds, namely Chaukas of Rajasthan – a system developed by a local community organisation, Gram Vikas Navuyak Mandal Lapodiya (GVNML). This study aimed at quantifying the recharge potential of Chaukas in barren lands of Lapodiya region in Rajasthan and their impact on vegetation cover.

– “The Chauka system can provide a sustainable alternative to manage water resources in water stressed regions and  livelihood support through development of pastures for animal husbandry. These advantages highlight their potential to be scaled up and replicated in other water stressed parts of India or the world that have barren land that is slightly sloping, together with permeable soils, which are the only necessary conditions needed for the construction of Chaukas” concludes the study. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/greening-barren-lands-local-way  (11 July 2022)

Laxman Singh has created a new technique for water conservation, called the ‘Chauka system’. Photo: Indra Shekhar Singh/The Wire, April 2022

Instead of building contours to hold water, the Chauka system is designed to hold a 9-inch water level spread over a field. Once the level is full, the water is drained and the moisture is recycled. Although his work is limited to 100 villages, Laxman is a local water warrior striving to bring water to communities. His method offers an efficient way to transform arid and degraded land, cost-efficiently. It’s not fancy, tech-driven or fossil fuel-guzzling, but is rooted in traditional knowledge and community-driven conservation. Something India really needs to think about right now. https://thewire.in/environment/laxman-singh-chauka-system-water-conservation-rajasthan  (07 April 2022)

5. Uttarakhand Dig a pond in memory of a loved one On his mother’s birthday, Chamoli decided to honour his parents’ memory with an unusual gesture. He dug a tiny pond on his family field in Chamkot village in Uttarkashi district. “They will bless me for recharging the earth with water and rejuvenating my small field,” says Chamoli. He was inspired by Dwarika Prasad Semwal, an elderly Gandhian activist, who has been leading a pond digging campaign across Uttarakhand called Kal Ke Liye Jal (Water for Tomorrow) since 2021. “you must align people’s emotions with the change you seek to bring. The emotional connect is so important,” says Semwal. “Water, land and forest are organically related, intrinsic to survival and close to people’s hearts.” In three villages, Chamkot, Kulhad and Siror, he set up a Ganga Sakhi Sangathan (GSS).

– The GSS, consisting of 70 members, took a pledge to dig small water pits. “In the old days kings, landlords and rich traders would dig ponds. The government pays zero attention to this so we the ordinary people have initiated this movement. Every member will dig 50 water pits or jalkunds, three feet wide and 1.5 feet deep in the memory of their ancestors or for a birthday or anniversary,” says Ramkumar Chamoli, pradhan of Chamkot village.

Semwal also heads the Himalaya Paryavaran Jadi Booti Agro Sansthan (HPJBAS). For his water mission he realized it was important to get the women involved. In three villages, Chamkot, Kulhad and Siror, he set up a Ganga Sakhi Sangathan (GSS) and couched his message in religion. He said saving water was an intrinsic part of Hinduism. Civil Society, Feb. 14, 2023

– Altogether 3,500 water pits have been dug in Chamkot village and its adjoining mixed forest of three sq. km. Last year the water mission spread to other parts of Uttarakhand. In Srikalkhal village of Uttarkashi district, 50 students of the Government Inter College dug four ponds to honour their teacher, Suraksha Rawat. They even harvested rainwater from the school building terrace, directing it to the four ponds they had dug. “It was my birthday on August 12 and my students gave me this precious gift,” says Rawat. https://www.civilsocietyonline.com/agriculture/a-pond-mission-from-the-heart/  (14 Feb. 2023)

Make ponds in memory of loved ones In order to tackle water scarcity, social activist Dwarika Semwal from Uttarkashi district has started a campaign called ‘Kal ke liye jal’ (water for future) for rainwater preservation. As part of the campaign, the 41-year-old goes from door to door making villagers aware of the dire water crisis and motivating them to dig ponds and water pits.

According to Semwal, who runs an organisation, Himalaya Paryavaran Jadi Buti Agro Sansthan, the strategy of connecting human sentiments with a conservation campaign seems to have struck a chord as many people from different parts of the state are coming forward to join the initiative. Under the campaign that started eight months ago from Chamkot village of Uttarkashi, nearly 3500 ponds and water pits have been built around the village so far. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/make-ponds-in-memory-of-loved-ones-in-uttarakhand/articleshow/95647388.cms  (21 Nov. 2022)

6. Manipur Cost-effective jalkunds help farmers tide over water woes The farmers of Manipur turn to jalkunds – low-cost water harvesting structures that go beyond irrigation needs and double their income. A jalkund is a low-cost water harvesting structure in which a pit, or pond, is lined with a polyethylene film. Jalkunds are being built in Manipur’s villages to cope with the changing climate and the errant rainfall, which lead to loss of livelihood for farmers.

Jalkunds are lined ponds to harvest water, which the farmers of Manipur use to overcome water problems (Photo by Gurvinder Singh/Village Square, Nov. 04, 2022)

This rainwater harvesting concept was started in 2010 by Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) from the Imphal East district when two jalkunds were built in Andro village. “They are built by excavating earth up to a depth of 1.5 m and have a length and breadth of 4 m and 5 m respectively. The side and the base are covered with high density 400 micron polyethylene plastic to prevent water seepage,” said Soram Molibala Devi, senior scientist from KVK. https://www.villagesquare.in/cost-effective-jalkunds-help-manipurs-farmers-overcome-water-woes/  (04 Nov. 2022)

7. Chhattisgarh MGNREGS becoming the quintessential scheme for tribal agriculture In the past ten years, 22 farm ponds in Bhiraud and 17 farm ponds in Marrampani have been constructed costing approximately Rs 81 lakhs (material and labour cost). This is the data from the NREGS dashboard. The latest data from the field revealed that in Bhiraud there are 90 farm ponds (many constructed in year 2021) and 50 more are planned. This is particularly celebratory from the point of groundwater conservation as during the same time the number of wells constructed in these two villages was 7 (six individual wells in Bhiraud and one community well in Marrampani).

Bhupendra, a tribal farmer proudly shows the boulder check dam work he and his villagers did to prevent soil and water erosion. (Image: Meenakshi Singh/ IWP, Aug. 06, 2022)

– The villagers stated that they have availed many benefits from these farm ponds and the farm ponds in a way have been life changing for them. Construction of these farm ponds through NREGS has provided them employment and water security. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/mgnregs-becoming-quintessential-scheme-tribal-agriculture  (09 Aug. 2022)

8. Bihar Efforts by local community and Pankaj Malviya ji lead to rejuvenation of the water body in Betia district.

85 tribal families of Gavghat village in koakol sub division of Navada district on border with Jamui dist have constructed a check dam in cooperation with elected representatives, forest department and shri Pankaj Malviya. ( DRP 02 May 2022)

9. Tamil Nadu Chinnapatti village awarded for water conservation Chinnapatti village in Madurai district has bagged the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Award for best village panchayat for attaining sustainability on indicators of sanitation and water conservation. During the ‘Panchayat Raj Day’ grama sabha meeting, Collector S Aneesh Sekhar handed over the official award announcement letter to panchayat president P Sakthi Mayil.

Chinnapatti is a quaint little village consisting of six wards and as many as 1,886 residents. Just over a year ago, the rural body elections were held and independent candidate and first-time contender P Sakthi Mayil entered the fray. “Rainwater harvesting, reusing borewells, renovation of traditional and other water bodies, intensive afforestation under Jal Shakti Abhiyan were the steps we took towards enhancing our conservation of water resources,” she said.  Out of total 522 houses in the panchayat, 344 received individual pipeline connections, and the remaining households are expected to get it within a month. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2022/apr/25/national-award-for-water-conservation-makes-it-to-tamil-nadus-chinnapatti-village-2446061.html  (25 April 2022)

10. West Bengal Village sees boost in incomes from better farming Dakshinkendbana is a Santhal village in the Indupur block of Bankura district. An obscure tribal village where seasonal migration has been the norm has seen household incomes increase as much as three times in five years with improved paddy and vegetable cultivation and fish-rearing.

Motivating farmers to experiment with cropping patterns. Civil Society, Dec. 13, 2022

The increase in incomes follows measures for water conservation and better methods of cultivation like direct seeding of rice. In 2019, the first pond was excavated on 2.13 acres and two more were dug in 2022, with the support of the West Bengal Accelerated Development of Minor Irrigation Project (WBADMIP). Five ponds and 11 borewells were made under the rural employment guarantee scheme.  https://civilsocietyonline.com/field-report/bengal-village-sees-boost-in-incomes-from-better-farming/  (13 Dec. 2022)

Some Positive Water Initiatives by Women Groups

Maharashtra Women spearheaded bid to make taluka drought-free Coro India NGO & 24 local organisations, with help from state govt & support of 90 local women, were able to make 6 villages in Maan taluka, Satara district, drought-free & increase water levels by 14-15 feet, with four out of six villages in no need of water tankers.

Women from Maharashtra’s Maan who took part in the initiative | YouTube @CORO Info. The Print/ April 24, 2022.

The initiative was launched in 2017. The Maharashtra government sanctioned Rs 1.44 crore to support the initiative. The aim, now, is to expand this initiative to 32 more villages in Maan taluka. https://theprint.in/india/defying-all-odds-how-women-in-maharashtras-maan-spearheaded-bid-to-make-taluka-drought-free/927206/  (23 April 2022)

Uttarakhand Natural Spring Revival Unites Women Natural springs are a key source of water for villages in Uttarakhand. But since the last few decades, springs from the village have been drying up, both because of mismanagement and the changing climate, experts say and research shows. And as a result, the once-fertile Garhwal region of Uttarakhand is increasingly gripped by water shortage.

– With water scarcity increasing, the villagers of Bajwad teamed up, earlier this year, with People’s Science Institute (PSI), a non-profit organisation based in Uttarakhand, to revive the springs. In the neighbouring Almora district, a similar initiative has yielded benefits to the locals. In the village Chanoli, over the last five years the residents, along with a local organisation called Laxmi Ashram, have revived five springs–one used by the upper castes, three by other backward classes and one by the Dalit community. https://www.indiaspend.com/climate-change/natural-spring-revival-unites-women-but-caste-still-decides-its-use-in-uttarakhand-828654  (01 Aug. 2022)

Madhya Pradesh Women’s groups have been able to collect the pending water tax in panchayats in Betul district. https://www.bhaskar.com/local/jharkhand/ranchi/news/if-given-command-to-women-then-64-lakh-rupees-in-6-months-burn-recovery-130013829.html  (04 July 2022)

Some More Positive Water Reports

Rajasthan Amartiya village, located in Mandalgarh block of Bhilwara district, has not allowed any borewell for the last 20 years. Sarju Bai Meena. Sarju Bai, 65, took the initiative 23 years ago to get his village out of water crisis and fodder shortage. She was greatly helped and guided in this work by the non-profit organization Foundation of Ecological Security (FES). Devnarayan Jal Grahan Vikas Samiti, formed by Sarju Bai, took some such steps to conserve water, which made the entire village water self-sufficient. Four anicuts were made in the village by the collective efforts and shramdaan of the villagers, which provided water to the animals, as well as the almost dead wells also became alive due to the increase in the ground water level. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/hindistory/water/water-conservation/by-banning-borewells-this-village-of-rajasthan-found-a-solution-to-the-water-crisis-83537  (05 July 2022)

Vikalp Sangam Baba Mayaram writing about protection of traditional water bodies of Nagaur district: https://vikalpsangam.org/article/marubhoomi-mein-paani-ki-rishtedaari/  (11 Dec. 2022)

Digging ponds to capture rainwater A state government scheme to encourage rainwater harvesting is bearing fruit as for the first time, the farmers in the water-strapped Gironiya village, are cultivating wheat in the rabi season, and their mustard production has reportedly increased manifold. https://www.gaonconnection.com/lead-stories/rainwater-harvesting-ponds-farmers-dholpur-rajasthan-state-government-scheme-51405  (07 Nov. 2022)

Jagsa village in Barmer district is an excellent example of how a village receiving just 284 millimetres of rainfall in a year can manage its water sources. The village that was once struggling for even drinking water is now thriving with pomegranate farms. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/water/rainwater-harvesting-changed-lives-of-farmers-in-a-rajasthan-village-here-is-how-88447  (24 March 2023)

Madhya Pradesh With the support of social organisations, tribal farmers of the Korku community began to practise water-soil conservation and recorded a significant raise in their yields. https://101reporters.com/article/The_Promise_Of_Commons/Moving_earth_and_water_Farms_in_MP_turn_fertile_with_groundwater_revival  (15 June 2022)

मध्य प्रदेश में आदिवासी ग्रामीणों की प्यास बुझाने वाला सामुदायिक प्रयास. Samridh Jharkhand, Oct. 09, 2022.

Residents of Kelhaura in Satna district are reviving wells and ponds to meet their daily water needs and to collect water for their cattle. Local NGOs have helped villagers in this community effort. https://samridhjharkhand.com/article/society/community-effort-to-quench-the-thirst-of-tribal-villagers-in-madhya-pradesh  (09 Oct. 2022)

The unique campaign of water conservation of 86-year-old Vishwas Keshav Dange, a physics professor, is going on continuously. So far 3 ponds have been constructed with the help of Shivganga Sangathan and work on the fourth one has begun. https://www.etvbharat.com/hindi/madhya-pradesh/state/jhabua/jhabua-professor-unique-campaign-jhabua-vishwas-keshav-dange-construct-fond-in-memory-of-family/mp20230205221630693693877  (05 Feb. 2023)

Karnataka Villagers in Gadag on cleaning mission for wells’ wellness The Futagao Badni Gram Panchayat recently launched a campaign to inspire villagers to restore old wells. Before long, youth in Lakshmeshwar and surrounding rural pockets too started cleaning defunct wells and rejuvenating them for the monsoon. Lakshmeshwar was once replete with wells and the entire town depended on them for water. But when water started reaching their homes from other sources, residents stopped using wells and turned them into garbage dumps. To inspire the youth to be part of the campaign, gram panchayat members decided to clean a well and put up photos on social media sites as part of the campaign, impacting the youth who took up cleaning of wells in the town too.

Gram Panchayat members and villagers clean a well at Futagao Badni village near Lakshmeshwar town in Gadag district. TNIE, July 03, 2022

The Futagao Badni project began in the second week of June, and works to clean more than 10 wells were taken up in the next 15 days. The movement gained traction with historians and professors in Gadag also deciding to list main kalyanis in the district and cleaning and preserving them for future generations. Urban and rural populations, who were hit by successive droughts, were enthused to save wells in their respective areas. Futagao Badni Gram Panchayat president Ashok Lamani said, “As residents struggle to get water during summer, all the gram panchayat members decided to clean an unused well in the village. ”Youth from Lakshmeshwar too said that they were inspired to mitigate the water crisis during summers. “Now we have started cleaning an old well near Hirebana area,” they added. Gadag has many historic wells called kalyanis or pushkaranis. Lakkundi had 101 wells. Only  a few are left now. https://www.newindianexpress.com/good-news/2022/jul/03/villagers-in-gadag-on-cleaning-missionfor-wells-wellness-2472322.html  (03 July 2022)

Farmer Ayyappa Masagi, a farmer from Tumkur district in North Karnataka is working on the best use of rain water and believes that rainwater can help farmers increase crop production even in those areas where there is less rainfall. Whatever he has learned over many decades, he wants to share with people. https://ndtv.in/videos/how-water-warrior-ayappa-masagi-is-making-good-use-of-rain-water-for-agriculture-view-this-report-638987  (23 June 2022)

Gujarat Neeta Patel’s conservation innovations are helping tribals Due to Patel’s efforts, women-run water committees have been formed in many villages, which are working closely with the panchayats to solve the water problem in the villages. Dang has helped form four women’s empowerment groups with a total of 2,900 members. 230 villages of Dang are getting help for irrigation of 1000 hectares. The entire team is works with public participation to repair wells, build check dams and repairs, in which drinking water schemes run by women have improved the water level of at least 25 villages, so that 24000 people have been able to overcome the problem of water. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/water-champion-neeta-patel-conservation-innovations-helping-tribals-gujarat-1964617-2022-06-20  (20 June 2022)

Punjab Villager crowd fund STP, treat 4 lakh liter waste water daily The Ransinh Kalan village residents contributed a whopping Rs 4 crore to set up a STP  through which they are cleaning 4-lakh litre polluted water on a daily basis. The sarpanch said the STP daily converted about 4-lakh litre of polluted water into clean water, which was used for irrigation purposes. “Three wells have also been constructed to clean the contaminated water. The water goes to three ponds where fish perform the activity of cleaning the water. Thereafter, water is cleaned through the sewage plant for irrigation purposes,” he said.

He said the villagers also cleaned the dirty water ponds in the village spread across 5 acres and connected them to the STP. “The ponds have been given a look of a lake and are giving an annual income of Rs 1 lakh from fish farming to the village,” the sarpanch said, adding that the villagers were now planning to go for rainwater harvesting in the village. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/moga-youth-show-the-way-clean-4l-litre-polluted-water-daily-434997  (25 Sept. 2022)

Haryana Nearly 1.2K farmers switch to alternative crops in Karnal The “Mera Pani Meri Virasat” initiative of the state government is getting a good response in paddy growing Karnal district as around 1,200 farmers have shunned paddy crop and switched to alternative crops like maize, arhar, moong, oilseeds and vegetables by registering themselves for these crops with the agriculture and horticulture departments.

With an aim to shifting the farmers to other crops from paddy, the state government had launched the “Mera Pani Meri Virasat” scheme, under which farmers are given Rs 7,000 per acre for adopting alternative crops instead of paddy. They have to register themselves on the portal of the department and later after verification, the farmers are given incentive. Both Agriculture and Horticulture Departments were given a target to switch 5,600 acres of paddy land to other alternative crops. Out of its target of 4,350 acres, the Agriculture Department has so far achieved success in converting 3851 acres to other crops, while of its target of 1,250 acres, the Horticulture Department got converted 509 acres to other crops. “We have achieved a target of 89 per cent and are hopeful we will achieve the remaining target before the deadline of June 30,” said Aditya Dabas, Deputy Director Agriculture (DDA). https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/nearly-1-2k-farmers-switch-to-alternative-crops-in-karnal-406699  (25 June 2022)

Uttar Pradesh Villages join hands with groundwater dept to conserve rainwater Noted social worker and nominated member of district ground water management committee Samaj Shekhar said, “Villagers have joined hands with groundwater department and minor irrigation departments to conserve each and every drop of rainwater during monsoon.” “Apart from cleaning and maintaining of many old and ancient ponds, water resources points, we are seeking every individuals’ support and initiative in both rural and urban areas to conserve the rainwater through various modes, including rooftop rainwater harvesting systems and creation of ponds,” he added. He, however, said, “A campaign tiled-Jal, Jan Vikas Abhiyan- is all set to launch on Tuesday (July 5) in Pratapgarh district seeking active participation of masses to create awareness for water conservation.” Last year, more than two dozen big ponds in trans-Ganga and trans-Yamuna pockets of the Prayagraj and Pratapgarh districts were filled with rainwater. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/allahabad/villages-in-prayagraj-pratapgarh-join-hands-with-groundwater-dept-to-conserve-rainwater/articleshow/92665938.cms  (05 July 2022)

Tamil Nadu Vinayagar Lake benefitting over 3,000 farmers While several environmental conservatives and NGOs are working towards reviving such dried-up water bodies and water sources, an organisation called Mega Foundations through its 136th Waterbody Restoration Project has successfully revived the Vinayagar Lake in Thanjavur. https://www.firstpost.com/india/vinayagar-lake-in-tamil-nadus-thanjavur-is-alive-once-again-benefitting-over-3000-farmers-12213692.html  (27 Feb. 2023)

Defunct borewells, handpumps to meet water needs Arid regions in Tiruvannamalai district can meet their water needs as work on converting the existing defunct borewells and handpumps into recharge water shafts has begun. Officials of Department of Rural Development (RD) said the water shafts will help to tap excess rainwater to recharge ground water in the drought hit areas. Most of the defunct borewells and handpumps were laid a decade ago and were not in use for at least four years. “Many defunct borewells and handpumps remain idle. Through the initiative, we are putting them in use again for water conservation,” R. Arun, Assistant Project Officer, NREGA, told The Hindu.

At present, Tiruvannamalai has 15,000 – 20,000 borewells and hand pumps for public use. Of this, 15-20 percent are defunct, mainly due to low groundwater level. In the first phase, 1,333 borewells and handpumps, covering 603 villages including 20 tribal hamlets in Jawadhu Hills will be covered. Each borewell was dug up to a depth of 900 feet in the district due to aridness of the region whereas pipelines for handpumps were laid only to a depth of 150 ft. As a result, more defunct borewells are being converted into recharge shafts because excess rainwater can be tapped for a longer period. Women workers under the MGNREGA have been roped for construction of recharge shafts. Some of the most arid regions like Chengam, Thandrampattu, Jawadhu Hills, Chetpet, Thiruchopuram will get benefitted. Of 14 panchayat unions in the district, Arani will get 124 recharge shafts, followed by Chengam (114) and Tiruvannamalai (107). https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/defunct-borewells-handpumps-to-become-recharge-shafts-in-tiruvannamalai-to-meet-water-needs/article66416650.ece  (22 Jan. 2023)

PWD preparing DPR to renovate 21 spring channels in Ranipet district PWD officials said that Rs 1.65 crore was spent to renovate the distribution channel and strengthening the bund of the tank, which ensured steady flow in the channel even after the rain stopped nearly a month ago. “This follows the department tasting success through the renovation of a spring channel (called Kasa Kalvai in Tamil) near Ocheri on the Ranipet–Kancheepuram district border resulting in water flowing from Karivedu to the irrigation tank at Damal in Kancheepuram district 8 km away,” the Collector said.

Collector D Baskara Pandian and PWD officials inspecting the renovated spring channel near Ocheri on the Ranipet – Kancheepuram border. DT Next, Jan. 17, 2023.

“Ranipet is the only district, due to its sandy soil, has such spring channels. The soil absorbs water when it rains and releases it after the downpour stops,” officials explained. “We feel that this might be the reason why agriculture did not face water-related issues despite lacking modern day advantages,” officials added. “The Karivedu spring channel showed the way of how to ensure continuous supply in the district,” they said and added that similar channels have been identified at Nemili, Panapakkam and Tiruparkadal in the district.

The renovation has also resulted in the water table increasing by 1.9 metres to touch 4.30 metres now as against the 6.25 metres in 2020, Collector Baskara Pandian said. This would help farmers raise three crops annually as against the two seasons followed at present, he added. The Karivedu tank improvements will benefit 525 acres and 310 farmers the Collector said and added that the continuous flow into the Damal tank abutting the Chennai–Bengaluru National Highway had gladdened the hearts of farmers in Kancheepuram that “many thanked the district administration for renovation of the spring channel which supplies water to their district.” https://www.dtnext.in/tamilnadu/2023/01/17/pwd-preparing-detailed-project-report-to-renovate-21-spring-channels-in-ranipet-district  (17 Jan. 2023)

Puducherry Former LG, Kiran Bedi, recounts how her team turned the UT into a water-rich place by involving corporates in cleaning up its streams and ponds. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/how-we-raised-puducherrys-water-table-by-7ft/articleshow/98888688.cms  (22 March 2023)

Opinion Recharging groundwater by water-harvesting measures D. Balasubramanian The average rate of groundwater decline in this part of India has been 1.4 cm per year in this century. Depletion is not so acute in regions where groundwater is brackish.

An important factor contributing to the good health of aquifers in some parts of our country is community based movements to recharge groundwater. A good example is seen in the semi-arid regions of Saurashtra. Here, thousands of small and large check dams have been built across seasonal rivers and streams. These slow the flow of water and contribute to groundwater recharge as well as to check soil erosion. In villages, bori bandhs are built, which are essentially sand-filled bags placed in the path of rainwater runoffs.

Studies comparing the water table status in Saurashtra with the climatically similar regions of Marathwada and Vidarbha show a net positive impact. It is heartening to note that in the last decade, these regions of Maharashtra have also started their own Managed Aquifer Recharge programmes such as the Jalyukt Shivar.

Another part of the country facing a marked decline in groundwater levels is a region overlapping Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, where the aquifers are located in crystalline bedrock. In such rocks, water is found only in cracks and fissures as the rock itself is not porous. Under these circumstances, tanks and ponds do not contribute much to groundwater recharge. In rural areas of this region, recharge is mostly affected from rainfall and irrigation-related recycling. Interestingly, the major source of groundwater recharge in an urban area (Bengaluru) is from leaks in water distribution pipes. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/recharging-groundwater-by-water-harvesting-measures/article66121437.ece  (12 Nov. 2022)

Opinion Farm ponds as agent of rural transformation S Adikesavan After the construction of farm ponds, farmers cultivate more land, and their fields are occupied for a longer duration. An initiative has transformed agriculture in the Hubli-Dharwad area in North Karnataka and Telangana under the initiative of an NGO, the Deshpande Foundation, with awareness creation among farmers, CSR spends by corporates, focused lending by banks like SBI and support of institutions like NABARD. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/farm-ponds-as-an-agent-of-rural-transformation/article65576494.ece  (28 June 2022)

IWP How to restore degraded pond ecosystem In this paper titled ‘Current Status of Ponds in India: A Framework for Restoration, Policies and Circular Economy’ the authors holistically examined the legal challenges (policies) and key anthropogenic and environmental pressures responsible for pond degradation in India. The country is strongly dedicated to attaining SDG and circular economy through aquatic ecosystem conservation and restoration. Considerable efforts are required at the administration level to recognize the contribution of pond ecosystem services in attaining global environmental goals and targets. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/how-restore-indias-degraded-pond-ecosystem  (11 March 2023)

Making Use of Traditional Water Practices

Madhya Pradesh Paat system of irrigation Tribals in Paati block of Barwani district sustain through the traditional Paat System of irrigation. https://www.freepressjournal.in/indore/barwani-tribal-farmers-of-state-struggle-to-keep-centuries-old-traditional-irrigation-system-alive  (13 May 2022)

Rajasthan Nadis, an insurance against a dry summer

The priest of the local Bishnoi temple at Deoli  nadi in Ramrawas Kalan filled up after the recent rains. The Hindu, Aug. 06, 2022.

There are areas in Jodhpur, Barmer where Orans and Nadis, local water harvesting structures still survive, thanks to Bishnoi community maintaining them. These need strengthening. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/special-story-monsoon-rains-fill-up-traditional-water-harvesting-structures/article65737048.ece  (06 Aug. 2022)

Assam Revival of traditional irrigation system along Assam Bhutan border has benefitted 6000 people of 16 villages in Tamulpur district of North Assam. A diversion structure was built in 1968 on Bornadi inside Bhutan, which broke in 2005 floods and was repaired subsequently during 2013-2018. https://www.deccanherald.com/national/east-and-northeast/how-voluntary-work-keeps-traditional-irrigation-system-going-alive-for-farmers-on-assam-bhutan-border-1138031.html   (21 Aug. 2022)

Karnataka Kasaragod caves: Visiting unique suranga The unique suranga, a traditional water harvesting structure, a narrow cave dug inside a hill which yields crystal-clear water, is a tourist attraction in Kerala’s Kasargod district. There are thousands of them here. Normally 30-40 m long, it can be upto a km long. https://civilsocietyonline.com/lifestyle/inside-kasaragod-water-caves-visiting-the-unique-suranga/  (10 Dec. 2022)

Jammu & Kashmir Watermills still in vogue Scattered across many villages in Ganderbal district that is dotted with streams and canals, these environment-friendly watermills are still in vogue. Muhammad Iqbal Khatana, 58, of Surfraw village of Kangan, Ganderbal operates one such watermill since his childhood and is determined to continue his forefathers’ business. “These Aab-e-Grate had a great significance to the villages in the era gone by. A Grate owner had a better social status in the village as the family could afford both food grains and earn money as a service charge on grinding,” Khatana says.

“Aab-e-Grate is environment friendly but largely forgotten. With the outset of industrialisation, the Aab-e-Grate is rapidly losing the demand due to modern mill,” he says.Special arrangement/GK, Dec. 15, 2022.

“Aab-e-Grate is environment friendly but largely forgotten. With the outset of industrialisation, the Aab-e-Grate is rapidly losing the demand due to modern mill,” he says. “Traditional watermills do not pollute the atmosphere, nor do they require electricity or fossil fuels to run,” he said. Residents of surrounding villages visit Khatana’s water mill and he charges in kind rather than cash, taking a share of the flour from his customers. “I wish to keep my family’s traditional business alive,” he says. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/front-page/from-grain-to-flour-with-water-power-aab-e-grate-the-centuries-old-environment-friendly-watermills-still-in-vogue-in-kashmir  (15 Dec. 2022)

Uttarakhand A defunct and abused ancient Naula believed to be built in 1522 during the Katyuri reign in Matena village of Almora was restored and has been heritage of national importance. https://devbhoomidialogue.co.in/500-years-old-syunarkot-naula-declared-national-monument/  (23 July 2022) https://www.himvan.com/naula/syunrakot-naula 

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

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