– Dr Lingaraju a geologist leading our team on Kumudavathi River rejuvenation
For a long time rejuvenating Kumudavathi was widely discussed topic in policy and academic circles with little happening on the ground. The shrill of these voices increased in June 2007 when T G Halli water reservoir that is fed by this river went dry depriving Bangalore of 20% of its fresh water supply.
In February 2013, a large team from The Art of Living decided to take up the challenge and devote their weekends to travel to villages in the river basin and to start working on Dr. Lingaraju’s plan of rejuvenating River Kumudavathi.
The volunteers along with the villagers pooled the resources and participated in de-silting the neglected Kalyani [Step Wells] in the villages. These structures play an important role in maintaining ground water levels. About 10 Recharge Wells and Boulder Checks were constructed using donations of volunteers to showcase them to public at large and also to Government officials.
The Action Plan was presented to Zilla Panchayat and Gram Panchayats. Several meetings of farmers with Gram Panchayat members were held highlighting the importance of activities to rejuvenate the river. Zilla Panchayats understood the importance of the project and also the possibility for including the work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The sanctions were accorded for the financial outlay and Gram Panchayats were advised to implement the proposals made by them with guidance from The Art of Living Team.
The last time it rained, water levels in many dry Kalyanis rose much to the delight of the local villagers and our team alike and motivated us to intensify our efforts.
After their initial reluctance to participate in this project, many different stakeholders now have joined us. Nine Gram Panchayats have so far pledged their support. The Minor Irrigation and Water Resources Department has offered full cooperation in the restoration of existing local water bodies in the region. Firms like Bosch and Philips where many of our volunteers work have come forth and funded some of the infrastructure.
Positive impact of the rejuvenating activities is already visible in a few villages with 10 to 15ft of water standing in open wells and step wells even in summer.
How does the journey look so far?
The following is the project progress so far:
155 boulder checks constructed
More than 20 traditional step wells de-silted
135 recharge wells constructed
23 recharge borewells constructed
More than 22, 000 saplings planted
22 water pools made
Reached out to 66504 people spread over 100 villages
How did we work?
With the help our technical team, we have worked out several strategies for this project:
Soil erosion has been controlled by checking the speed of rainwater flow on stream paths by constructing boulder checks
Ground water has been recharged by constructing water recharge wells and injection wells at scientifically identified locations. These have helped to bring up the water table in the catchment areas.
Water bodies have been rejuvenated by cleaning of Kalyanis (step wells) and tanks
Vegetation cover has been increased by planting tree. This is a long-term but permanent solution for restoring the ecosystem.
Organic farming techniques are being taught to farmers to optimize the water usage
What did we learn?
We have learnt that in such massive projects, the key is not just investing funds. It is also incredibly important to develop a sense of ownership in the local community so that they take responsibility to make the change sustainable.
Besides, continuous dialogue with Zilla and Gram Panchayats regarding the project and its progress, it is important to share the experiences with local farmers and village beneficiaries and to involve the Government bodies.
How can you contribute?
This is a complex and large project and the following activities are planned to cover the river basin covering 18 mini-watersheds to rejuvenate the river:
885 recharge wells in 278 villages covering 460 Sq. kms of the river basin
1749 Boulder checks along the streams
54 Deep Injection wells needed in the river basin
223 water pools to be made in the lakes
1,00,000 trees to be planted in the area
It is expected that with sufficient rainfalls for minimum three seasons after completion of work in the entire project area, the desired results will be visible.
We are looking for partners who can work with us on implementation and funding for one or more mini watersheds out of the proposed 18 watersheds. Apart from monetary contribution, participation in terms of technical expertise , writing stories and reports on the development of the project is also desirable.