Chikmagulur receives an average rainfall of about 1925 mm that is amongst the highest in the country. Yet as summer approaches all lakes and rivulets go dry. Due to over utilization, the ground water levels in the region have dropped down to below 1100 ft in certain places and irrigation is almost impossible.
Nearly 90% of the bore wells in the catchment area of Vedavathi River have gone dry due to over exploitation. The river that once used to flow throughout the year is restricted to few months of monsoon.
Working with the experts we prepared a comprehensive watershed management program to rejuvenate the Vedavathi river which once used to flow throughout the year in this area. The proposed network of structures to raise the groundwater levels will stretch to an area covering 179 sq kms across 49 villages in phase I. In phase II, approximately 5000 sq kms will be covered. We estimate that by the end of the third year ground levels would rise to such levels that the Vedavathi river would start gushing again.
After the start of the project, our team led by Nagraju Gangoli started meeting individual Gram Panchayats explaining them the need to undertake comprehensive water management efforts and to build consensus. In a period of six months, we got support from 10 Gram Panchayats covering all the 49 villages and brought together the administrative machinery including the individual Panchayat Development Officers and the CEO of Zila Parishad.
Due to persistent efforts of the team, the funds were sanctioned under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and The Art of Living was declared the Nodal agency to oversee the project implementation.
Construction of recharge structures started in May 2014 after the general elections got over. In the tanks that have been constructed so far, the water levels have started rising due to the torrential showers that the region has received.
The bigger change however, is that due to our efforts, residents from over 49 different villages lying in the Vedavathi watershed have all joined hands to tackle the problem. We have won the support of the district administrative machinery and the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (RDPR) ministry. This partnership is vital to the success of the project.
How does the journey look so far?
Under Phase I
Rs. 6.17 Crores sanctioned under MGNREGA for a comprehensive watershed management plan
Rs. 1.5 Crore sanctioned by the Forest department to increase green cover
810 recharge structures (including boulder checks, recharge wells and water ponds) undertaken
49 villages under 10 Gram Panchayats where structures have been built
Over 2000 people provided employment, generating 184,000 man days
Over 377 sq. km covered
Under Phase II
188 Crores sanctioned under MGNREGA
835 structures completed till date and 619 under progress
1,06,795 man days of work would be generated
How did we work?
We have employed the following strategies for this project:
Village level awareness campaigns (personal and group interaction) and tying up with individual Gram Sabhas
Obtaining RDPR Sanction
Identifying local leaders who would lead the work and working with them to build implementation teams
Providing training to the teams on how the work will be executed
For each Gram Panchayat, showing them a demo of the work to be done and how the compensation should be effected
Leading each Gram Panchayat team to start the work and monitoring their work every day to complete the projects on time and within the budget
What did we learn?
There have been some important learnings for us from this project. Some of them include:
The loopholes in MGNREGA need to be covered in order to avoid delay in wage payments and other kinds of irregularities
Mass awareness about MGNREGA needs to spread among the public
Developmental work that involves the Government bodies as well as the civil society requires high patience and perseverance on the part of the implementing organization.
How can you contribute?
In phase II of the project that we are targeting to complete in 2016, the plan is to build a total of 21,800 structures spread across 1097 villages. The goal is to cover 5400 sq. km. Efforts of this scale would require massive financial support and resources. Individuals can offer their time to plant saplings and also choose to provide their technical and marketing expertise for successful completion of the project.