“Since my childhood, I’ve never seen so much of water in the nalla and in my farm well.”
– Pandurang, farmer from Maske Village, Latur
The only source of water in Latur, a small non-descript district of Maharashtra, is rains. In recent years, owing to the erratic nature of the monsoons and the overuse of ground water, drought has become fairly common in this area. Over the course of many dry summers, all water sources including local rivers, streams have dried and groundwater has been exhausted. In many areas, the farmers have barely any water left for drinking, let alone farming.
Under the Jal Jagruti Abhiyaan, a project to rejuvenate rivers and nallahs in a few districts of Maharashtra – primarily through de-silting activities – was undertaken in 2013.
As of Jan 2016, work on 12 rivers and nallahs in more than 150 villages spread across Jalgaon, Satara, Nagpur Jalna, Latur and Osmanabad districts has been undertaken. Work includes de-silting and construction of cement bunds and gabion structures. The rivers include:
Gharni, Tavarja, Rena, Jana, Mudgul- Latur district
Terna, Rajegavi, Benitura- Osmanabad district
Narola- Jalna district
Vena- Nagpur district
Waghur- Jalgaon district
Mann- Sangali- Satara district
Working closely with the local community we have been able to rejuvenate many of these rivers that have been dry for decades. Subsequently, hundreds of acres of dry abandoned farmlands have been reclaimed, forest and green cover has increased, soil erosion and rainwater runoff has been significantly restricted. Today, there is ample water in all the villages where we initiated work.
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The outcome of this project has been very encouraging so far. In spite of long summers and delayed monsoons, water is available in the bore-wells up to a distance of 2km on either side of the river/nallahs where the de-silting work has been carried out.
In stark contrast, no water is available in the parts where de-silting has not been done so far and bore-wells have to be dug to a depth of 1000 feet to get water. Hundreds of acres of dry abandoned farmlands were reclaimed, forest and green cover increased, soil erosion and rainwater runoff significantly restricted. Today, there is ample water in all the villages where we initiated work.
Due to the dramatic increase in groundwater level in the villages, the lives of more than 1 lakh villagers has improved.
How does the journey look so far?
The project progress is as follows:
Reached out to 1,00,000 villagers in 150 villages across 6 districts
Rejuvenated 12 rivers
Silt from more than 200Km of the rivers has been removed
30 structures built/repaired with the help of the Government of Maharashtra
How did we work?
The long-term impact that we achieved is the sense of ownership that the local community has developed about local water resources. They have now started working proactively for water retention and are taking up more responsibility of the issues that they are facing. We have employed the following strategies on this project:
De-silting existing rivers and water streams to recharge the ground water table
Planting trees alongside the river course
Teaching the villagers to do away with water guzzling chemical fertilizers and switch to organic farming
Introducing the villagers to drip irrigation
Making the stakeholders an integral part of the project and involving them in all stages of the project
What did we learn?
Most regions in India that lie south of the Vindhyas are currently suffering with acute water shortage. We cannot depend on government interventions alone to solve this problem. We have to actively engage the local community and local bodies to work towards a solution.
How can you contribute?
In phase II of the project, many more initiatives are being undertaken that include putting up RO water plants, training and continuous support for zero-budget organic farming, drip irrigation, and de-addiction programs. We are actively looking for partnerships to help fund these initiatives.