(This article appeared in Down
To Earth, January 15, 2000)
With the failure of the 1999 monsoon in several areas
of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, there is a serious drought. Summer
is a good four months away, and already there are reports of
riots and deaths over water. But several villages are well equipped
to face the water scarcity. While travelling through the region,
a Down To Earth reporter found that the villages that
have built water harvesting structures do not have a drinking
water problem, and some even have enough for irrigation
The story echoes the fable of the industrious ant that stocks
foodstuff for winter and the lazy grasshopper that is left
without food. Women and children dig the dry bed of the Sukhi
river near Dahod town of Gujarat. Sitting aside one-metre-deep
holes, they wait for life to seep into the holes in the form
of water all other sources of drinking water have dried
up completely. It takes at least one hour for us to
get one pot of water. But we are forced to do this as there
is no alternative, says Lasan Bhilwad, a tribal woman
from the nearby Rentia village.
Barely 25-30 km from Rentia, all the wells and handpumps
of Thunthi Kankasiya and Mahudi villages have plenty of water.
The seasonal river Machhan, which flows past these villages,
has enough water even for irrigation. The N M Sadguru Water
and Development Foundation, a non-governmental organisation
(ngo) functioning in Dahod district that is known simply as
Sadguru, and the residents here have constructed a series
of concrete check dams to collect rainwater for irrigation.
Moreover, watershed management (wm) measures have been adapted
for recharging wells and handpumps. Their past efforts are
bearing fruit today.
As Lasan Bhilwad stands on the riverbed with her four children,
one can understand why it is difficult to find a family in
this region that is willing to marry its daughter to someone
from a water-scarce village, no matter how agreeable the prospective
groom may be. They do not want their daughters to undergo
the agony of seeing water trickle into a hole, even as people
trickle out of the village to look for greener pastures. Water
means prosperity its scarcity means poverty, regardless
of material wealth. And these are particularly poor
times for hundreds of villages in Gujarat. The reason is summarised
in one word: drought.
This is the worst drought I have ever seen in my life,
says the 48-year-old Bhilwad. The rainy season has just ended,
yet there is little water. Nobody knows how the residents
will survive till the next monsoon. The portents are all there
to see in the deserted Piyaka village of Mandvi taluka in
Kachchh district of Gujarat. All the 550 people from 21 houses
have left Piyaka for good. We were forced to leave because
we could no longer face the water crisis, says Argi
Badra, 44, who was on a one-day visit from Mumbai when he
spoke to Down To Earth.
Most reservoirs in the Saurashtra region in southwestern
Gujarat have only 9 per cent of their capacity of water, which
will last for only two months, according to the Gujarat Water
Supply & Sewerage Board (gwssb), Rajkot. The board says
the region received a mere 356 millimetre (mm) of rainfall
this year till October 30, as against an annual average of
530 mm. People in Rajkot city are getting drinking water supply
for half-an-hour every day. We really do not know how
we will meet the drinking water demand in our district in
April-May 2000. Already, we are supplying drinking water through
tankers in several areas where there are no pipelines,
says Ashwini Kumar, sub-divisional magistrate (sdm) of Rajkot
district. In the Kachchh district, rainfall this year has
been around 133 mm, much less than half the annual average
of 266-417 mm. Already, riots are taking place in the state
due to water scarcity (see p7: Riots over water).
Drought is nothing new here, but this years water scarcity
has been particularly devastating. Apart from Saurashtra and
Kachchh, the districts of Dahod and Panchmahals in Gujarat
as well as Jhabua and Dhar in the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh
are facing a serious drinking water crisis. With little water
for irrigation, the first casualty has been agriculture. After
the kharif crop (harvested in autumn) failed to a large extent
in these areas, there are already signs that the rabi crop
(harvested in spring) will suffer a similar fate. Rainfall
was low this year and distributed in such a way that there
was no run-off. So, harvesting of water did not take place.
Yet many watershed areas, where rainwater harvesting and soil-water
conservation measures have been implemented, are better off
in terms of water availability, says Harnath Jagawat,
director of Sadguru.
scarcity: the regions
Water was easily available in the region 10-15 years ago. But
overexploitation has depleted underground aquifers. The groundwater
table in these areas has fallen below 300 metres, says G F Joshi,
executive engineer with the public health works division in
Rajkot. Seawater has ingressed into the underground aquifers
in a major part of Kachchh region, according to a recent report
of the Gujarat Ecology Commission.
The presence of 700,000 dugwells in Saurashtra region
indicates the presence of extensive groundwater aquifers throughout
the region. This means there is one well for less than 20
people, or one well for every 9 hectare (ha) of land or one
every 1,000 feet (304 metres), according to Ashvin A
Shah, a us-based engineering consultant who conducted a survey
in 1998 on water availability in the region. However, the
use of pumpsets for water-intensive agriculture over the past
30 years has lowered the groundwater table from about 9 metres
to about 46 metres, he says, indicating that the capacity
of the same aquifers is still available to store water.
In the area underlain by Bhuj sandstone in Kachchh, the depth
of dugwells was 9-30 metres and water level was 2-21 metres
in the 1960s, according to a paper prepared by K C B Raju,
adviser, Shri Vivekanand Research and Training Institute in
Mandvi, Kachchh district. Today, the depth of dugwells is
30 metres or more and the depth of the bore in them is between
30 metres and 100 metres.
There are about 30,000 dugwells/borewells and about 350 tubewells
tapping the underground aquifers in Bhuj and Manchar. The
utilisable groundwater resources of the district estimated
in 1991 are about 517.07 million cubic metres (mcum). However,
more than 55 per cent of the water has already been extracted,
and 57 per cent of the land area of Kachchh has been occupied
by the saline mudlands of the Rann of Kachchh, which will
not contribute to groundwater recharge, notes Raju. He quotes
data from the agriculture department of Gujarat to say that
the cropped area in Saurashtra and Kachchh has declined by
35 per cent in parts affected by seawater intrusion.
Shamjibhai Antala of Saurashtra Lok Manch, an ngo based in
Dhoraji village of Rajkot, says the number of wells and borewells
in Saurashtra and Kachchh has increased 16 times over from
25,854 in 1961 to 425,000 in 1998. The groundwater table was
about 12-15 metres below the surface in most areas of Saurashtra
and Kachchh, while today it has dropped to 215-305 metres,
he says. The story from Dahod in Gujarat and Dhar in Madhya
Pradesh is much the same.
of this years drought
The water problem became a political issue in Gandhinagar during
the September-October general elections. The candidate from
the state capital was home minister L K Advani, and the slogan
doing the rounds was Pahele Pani, Phir Advani (Water
first, then Advani). According to gwssb, 73 per cent of the
villages in Saurashtra and Kachchh (3,774 out of 5,181) are
expected to face drinking water scarcity this year, apart from
60 cities. About 4,730 villages of these areas are included
in the no-source category, meaning that drinking
water has to be supplied from outside to these villages.
There is a limit to which the government can provide
water through tankers. Had it not rained in the first week
of October 1999, as we had feared, we might have faced serious
consequences. Now, at least we have been able to catch some
rainwater, which is adequate to meet the drinking water needs
of the district for another four months, says P B Trivedi,
district magistrate of Rajkot. It would have been very
costly for us to provide water for four months to water-scarce
areas in the district through tankers, says Ashwini
In Jhabua district, the total kharif crop yield of 1999 is
estimated to be 60 per cent lower than in 1998 (106,735 metric
tonnes as against 265,036 metric tonnes), according to Wasim
Akhtar, collector of Jhabua district. Moreover, the rabi crop
yield this year is expected to be 93 per cent lower than in
1998 (9,966 metric tonnes as against 141,099 metric tonnes).
Jhabua recorded a rainfall of 536 mm this year, the second
lowest in the past 25 years, according to the district administration.
The average annual rainfall in Jhabua in the last 25 years
has been 886 mm.
In Dhar district, the rainfall recorded this year was about
665 mm, as against the average annual rainfall of 840 mm.
Of the total 227,000 ha of the rabi area, we expect
to harvest only about 150,000 ha. This is less than 35 per
cent of the rabi crop last year, says Rajesh Rajora,
Dhars district magistrate. The district has 244 irrigation
tanks, out of which only 12 tanks have water up to 90 per
cent of their capacity, while 155 tanks have either half their
capacity or less.
need of the hour
Some really serious issues face Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh
today, and the present drought has highlighted them. Water-related
disputes are gradually increasing in rural areas. They are
expected to surpass land disputes in the next 10 years,
Apparantely, the state cannot supply water to every village
in India, when it fails to supply water in cities, where political
pressure to provide civic amenities is much greater than in
villages. If the government fails, people have to take the
matter in their own hands. Rainwater harvesting is the only
The Gujarat government is not realising the magnitude of
the present problem, complains Antala. The state government
is still focussing mainly on extraction of groundwater in
Saurashtra and Kachchh regions, he says. He points out
a recent plan of the state government to dig 120 borewells
with an investment of Rs 70 crore in Wankaner taluka of Rajkot
for supplying drinking water to Rajkot city (see box: Short-term
plans, long-term disasters). In Saurashtra, it has become
a business for big farmers to own deep borewells and sell
water to small and marginal farmers. The government has no
data to show the actual number of wells and borewells in the
region. After observing the state governments
reluctance, people have started managing their water on their
own, he adds.
Many government officials are complacent about water
harvesting projects because they think they will be able to
bring water from the Narmada to Saurashtra and Kachchh regions.
It is merely a plan, nothing else, says Antala. He points
out that even if the Madhya Pradesh government allows to increase
the height of the Narmada dam and the water comes to Saurashtra
and Kachchh, it will never benefit the people. This, he reasons,
is because the government has already issued licences to 10
sugarcane mills, which will lead to cultivation of sugarcane,
which is water-intensive and will eat into the water supplies.
But there are a few positive signs in Gujarat. The government
has sanctioned 1,577 micro-watershed management projects in
the state by July 1999. The reasons for the failure
of water harvesting structures in some regions are poor site
selection and works done by contractors who try to save money.
Most government water harvesting structures have failed because
of these reasons, says P P Bhatt, the Ahmedabad-based
project officer of Bochasanwasi Shri Aksharpurshottam Public
Charitable Trust, which is involved wm activities. The state
government has failed to implement its plans properly because
it has not promoted the concept of participatory development
in wm programmes, Bhatt says.
Even in Madhya Pradesh, not all wm projects have been successful.
There are 1,200 stop dams in Jhabua and 600 in Dhar. A senior
state government official, asking not to be named, pointed
out that almost one-third of water-harvesting projects in
Jhabua and Dhar are useless. This, he explained, was because
of improper site selection. The main reason, he cites, is
the implementation of these projects on political criteria
and not on technical criteria. During this years
drought, water harvesting structures have failed to yield
beneficial results only in those regions where the projects
have not been implemented on technical criteria but on some
political criteria, he says.
The Madhya Pradesh government is considering a legislation
which would let the communities regulate and utilise groundwater
resources. A welcome step by all means as a state government
is now actually accepting the limitations of the administration
in managing groundwater and planning to use the inherent potential
of communities in India to take care of groundwater.
The way in which some villages of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh
have made light of the current drought makes it clear beyond
any reasonable doubt that the answer to most problems in rural
areas lies in rainwater harvesting. The water resources
of Kachchh are dependent entirely on rain. The water harvesting
project implemented during the past 10 years in this area
shows that it is possible to arrest the further deterioration
of the groundwater regime of the area, says K C B Raju.
According to Antala, Water harvesting can easily be
done by people themselves. There is no need for any government
help. For this, we need to create public awareness. The message
will not spread by mere lectures. Even if we harvest one-fifth
of the total rain falling in Saurashtra and Kachchh, there
wont be any water scarcity.
In an interview with Down To Earth, the Union minister for
water resources, C P Thakur, said in the present scenario,
the role of the water resources ministry is just that
of a public relations officer who liaisons between state governments.
Rainwater harvesting will be a priority of my government.
The water harvesting concept has shown good results in areas
where it is implemented properly, he said.
According to Antalas calculations, even if an average
of 550 mm of rainfall is harnessed in the Saurashtra region,
there would be no shortage of water for drinking and irrigation.
If we are serious about the issue then it is important
to raise the groundwater level in Saurashtra. For this, artificial
recharging is important. And recharging wells and borewells
is the most effective way of doing this. There are about 700,000
wells in the region. If we recharge all the wells then we will
be able to irrigate about 720,000-800,000 ha of area every year,
The need for harvesting rainwater in Gujarat is greater
as it is surrounded by sea on three sides and 65 per cent
of Saurashtras land is below the sea level, in some
places as much as 46 metres below sea level. So, when the
groundwater level goes down the seawater will enter the aquifer,
The collected water could be stored underground by directly
injecting it into open dug wells to replenish the depleted
groundwater aquifers, explains Ashvin Shah. He calculates:
The population of Saurashtra is 12.3 million. The average
annual rainfall is around 530 mm falling over 64,000 sq km
area or a quantity of 34,000 million cubic metres (mcum) per
year.... Assuming 20 per cent of the rainwater is collected,
the total quantity of rainwater collected annually would be
6,820 mcum per year or about 1,500 litres of water every day
per person. Considering the fact that many people do not get
even 125 litres per day, the quantity the United Nations considers
minimum for domestic use, the rainwater harvesting potential
is indeed very high or 12 times the drinking water need. Groundwater
restoration should be a priority and we should find out ways
to quickly recharge the groundwater, Shah points out.
He estimates that as much as 6,096 mcum of water can be put
into the ground if recharging work is taken up all over Saurashtra.
The figures speak for themselves. And India has a great tradition
of harvesting rainwater. Several villages are still showing
the grit that has seen human civilisation through over centuries.
The present challenge is about combining the common sense
of the past with the best of modern science. If India fails
to do this, there will be countless women like Lasan Bhilwad,
digging dry riverbeds for a pot of water. There will be an
increasing number of riots over water. The choice is between
rainwater harvesting and a parched, violent future.
Villages which have
harvested rainwater are faring quite well in the face of drought
Water harvesting systems have certainly benefited a large section
of society in the Saurashtra and Kachchh regions. There is no
way better than such systems to optimally tap water resources,
says R C Trivedi, former chairperson of Gujarat Pollution Control
Board, who lives in Ahmedabad.
Manibhai Padmabhai Patel of Dhoraji village in Rajkot district,
says: After I started recharging my well, not only can
I cultivate crops even during drought but the crop production
has also increased several times over. Mohanbhai, also
of Dhoraji, started recharging his well ten years ago. Since
then, his total cropped area has doubled. Another resident,
Dayabhai Premjibhai Patel, says his crop area more than tripled
after he began recharging his well four years ago.
According to Shamjibhai Antala, who has done yeomans
service in creating awareness about recharging of wells in
Saurashtra, The farmers today realise that the government
will do nothing for them. So, farmers are now building water
harvesting structures on their own. Antala recalls picking
up the idea of recharging wells from a vigilant Dhoraji farmer,
named Ramjibhai Manjibhai: From 1985 to 1987, there
was scarcity of water. In 1998, the rains were good. This
farmer made efforts to divert rainwater from a nearby stream
into his dry well. The experiment was successful and Ramjibhais
well was the only one which had water in the summer.
Preliminary reports from Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh
show that in areas where watershed management (wm) measures
have been taken, crops and the groundwater table have not
been affected as adversely as areas where no soil-water conservation
measures were taken. The number of handpumps and wells that
have dried up in wm villages is definitely lower than in non-wm
areas, says Rajora.
To investigate the impact of the drought, the district administration
randomly selected 25 samples each of areas where wm activities
have been undertaken and areas where these have not been adopted.
We found that the loss of kharif crop in non-wm areas
is around 40 per cent, as compared to just 10-12 per cent
in wm areas. I think moisture control [in the soil] has played
a role in mitigating the damages, he says. Preliminary
reports say the situation is much the same in Jhabua district.
Nearly 20 per cent of the total area of Jhabua, which
is covered under wm projects, is in a better position in terms
of water availability. Crop loss has been 10 per cent less
in areas with such projects, says Sachin Sinha, additional
collector of Jhabua who is also the chief executive officer
of the zila panchayat (district council).
The impact of the wm measures can be assessed in terms of
seasonal migration for employment (see table: Staying put!).
The migration rate has not reached the proportion that
were expected. In October, nearly 274,986 children received
polio vaccination. This month again, we have reached very
close to this figure. Normally, a family takes along its children
when it migrates. As the number of children receiving polio
vaccination this month is nearly the same, it indicates that
the rate of migration is not high, says Wasim Akhtar,
collector of Jhabua. He adds that in areas where stop dams
are successful, in Jhabua tribal people are reaping crops
of 40 quintals per hectare, making them the second highest
wheat producers in the state.
We have taken up micro-watershed projects in around
40 villages in the past 4-5 years. We found that wherever
water harvesting works have been carried out properly, the
drinking water problem has been solved to a great extent,
says Anil Shah, chairperson of Development Support Centre
(dsc), an ngo based in Ahmedabad.
This years drought has worked as a catalyst in
increasing awareness about the importance of rainwater harvesting
to deal with water scarcity. The people are realising the
importance of wm. In fact, villages that do not have wm projects
are demanding such projects now, says Rajora. We
have received many applications from non-watershed villages
to bring them under watershed projects now, says Sinha.
Mohan Singh, sarpanch (head) of the Umari panchayat in Jhabua
district, says after suffering severe crop damages and drinking
water crises, people in Umari are demanding wm projects. Down
To Earth takes a look at some villages that are shining examples
This years drought has
worked as a catalyst in increasing awareness about the
importance of rainwater harvesting with water scarcity
Rajesh Rajora District magistrate, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh
Bhils of Dahod
The people of this small village of Bhil tribals in Dahod district
had been facing a serious water crisis. About 78 per cent of
them used to migrate for at least 10 months. There were no wells
in the village. The farmlands were of no use; there was no water.
We used to walk four to five km in search of drinking
water, recalls 70-year-old Madia Fatha. Things changed
for the better in 1994. Today, the people are confident about
weathering any drought. This has only been possible due to wm
projects and the construction of a series of check dams with
the assistance of the Sadguru foundation on the seasonal river
According to Harnath Jagawat, director of Sadguru, When
I discussed the idea to work on water problems in this area,
many government officials and politicians laughed at me. They
asked where would I work when there was no water in the area.
They did not realise that I was thinking of rainwater.
The residents organised a meeting in February 1994, requesting
Sadguru to build a check dam on the Machhan. The dam was completed
in April-May 1994 within a record 85 days, such was the level
of peoples enthusiasm. The engineers of Sadguru worked
out the technical details.
Later, a series of dams were built all along the Machhan
to slow down the run-off and impound the water for irrigation.
The Sadguru foundation has also carried out an intensive watershed
project by stone trenching and bunding, terracing and planting
trees in the area. Since then there has been a total transformation
(see table: Making themselves prosperous). After the construction
of the check dam, a reservoir has been created that has a
capacity of 453,070 cubic metres. The river that used to dry
up four months after the rainy season has enough water to
meet the irrigation needs despite the drought. This
has been possible only because of constant recharging of groundwater
through watershed interventions, explains Rakesh Pandey,
deputy director of Sadguru, who led the team that worked out
the technical aspects of the water harvesting structures.
The cascadal reservoir model has been very
successful, says Pandey, explaining that it involves
building small dams near the source of the river and the construction
of a series of small irrigation structures downstream. The
water trapped in the dams recharges groundwater. Jagawat points
out that the water in the Machhan is from last years
rain as there was no run-off this year. The rainfall this
year was a mere 350 mm, compared to the annual average of
830 mm, Pandey points out. Yet, all the 23 wells have enough
water to meet their drinking water requirements. The farmers
will cultivate three crops as there is enough water to irrigate
135 ha of land. The water is accessible to all 154 households
of the village.
Today, the residents are entirely responsible for managing
the dam. Jagawat estimates that almost the entire population
of the village is now above the infamous poverty line,
with the average household income rising from Rs 8,000-9,000
per year to Rs 35,620 per year. Sadguru has constructed another
check dam on the Machhan near village Mahudi. Farmers here
are now growing wheat, sugarcane, gram, maize, tomatoes and
other vegetables. Says Ramjibhai Katara of Mahudi: Earlier,
I had to work as a labourer hundreds of kilometres away from
home. Today, I employ labourers in my field.
About 20 km away from the district headquarters of Rajkot, this
village shows how environmental management can bring about a
socio-economic turnaround. According to Narayanbhai Limbasia,
a 70-year-old farmer: Around 15 years ago, people were
unwilling to marry their daughters to grooms in this village
due to the water crisis. More than 75 per cent of bores
in the village yielded no water, says Hardevsinh Balwantsinh
Jadeja, head of the village council.
About 10 years ago, the village was declared a desert area
and put under the arid zone development programme of the state
government. In 1986-87, the residents undertook wm projects.
Jadeja led the villagers to construct 12 check dams between
1986 and 1988 (see box: Man with a mission). The villagers
planted thousands of trees, and undertook stone-trenching,
bunding and terracing in their fields on the lines of wm.
The state government launched a wm project in 1995-96 in this
village, and the District Rural Development Agency (drda)
allocated Rs 17 lakh. Since 1998 the villagers have implemented
around 50 micro-watershed projects (a micro-watershed project
is within an area of 500 ha).
Today, there is ample water. Farmers have sown cotton, wheat,
groundnut and vegetables. Even though there was only 316 mm
of rainfall this year against an annual average of
over 500 mm the groundwater level in most of the wells
is about three metres, and is 1.5 metres in some wells. All
the 280 wells, 5 handpumps and 35 borewells have water. The
surface water is available for at least 10 months now,
says Jadeja. There are 51,000 trees in the village today,
as against just 1,600 in 1988. The farmers are now developing
The farmers earnings have increased significantly.
The residents point out that they earn around Rs 2.5 crore
more than the neighbouring villages of Aniyala, Pada, Hadmmatiya
Golida, Dhandhiya and Shadan, which do not have water harvesting
structures. Raj-Samadhiyala sells vegetables worth Rs 50 lakh
every year. In 1990, when water was scarce, my father
used to earn Rs 1.5 lakh from his farms. Today, I earn around
Rs 10 lakh from the same land, says Jadeja.
Says Devsinhbhai Bhavanbhai Kakadia, 60: I used to
earn Rs 5,000-10,000 per year from my 6.4 hectares. Today,
my income is about Rs 1-1.5 lakh. I am confident of earning
at least Rs 50,000 even during the present drought.
Jadeja points out that water has not only brought about prosperity
but social well-being as well. He claims there is no crime
in the village, no police case is registered at present against
anyone from the village and that people leave their houses
open and unguarded.
Before 1988, most of the families used to migrate in search
of livelihood. Migration for employment has ceased now. Today,
there are just 50 families below the poverty line, as compared
to 138 in 1988. Ashwini Kumar, sdm of Rajkot, says Raj-Samadhiyala
received the prize of Rs 25,000 as the best village panchayat
This village in Mandvi taluka of Gujarats Kachchh district
has embarked on rainwater harvesting and wm quite recently.
For the past 10-12 years, the residents have been facing a drinking
water crisis. Even officials of the Geological Survey
of India failed to get water from a borewell a few years ago.
They left this area never to come back. But we cannot leave.
We have to live here and we have to find our own solutions,
says Bhimji Premji Chaudhury, president of the Gram Vikas Mandal
(gvm, the village development group) of Gandhigram. The groundwater
table has fallen below the sea level due to overextraction.
The seawater has now seeped into the underground aquifers, making
At present, Gandhigram is supplied drinking water through
pipelines. But the villagers do not know how long they will
get this water. They want to be on the safe side. Last year,
they took a bank loan to construct their own check dams. We
borrowed Rs 15 lakh from a local person and took an additional
loan of Rs 5 lakh from a bank. We have also contributed Rs
5 lakh to the project in the form of shramadan (voluntary
labour), according to gvm members. Six months ago, the
residents constructed a dam on the Khari river which flows
nearby. There are about 400 people in the village, of which
25-30 people have migrated this year due to the drought. The
village has decided to reserve whatever water is left in the
dams for drinking water. Apart from the dams, the people of
Gandhigram have also undertaken a micro-watershed project.
The drda is carrying out a watershed project in Gandhigram
with the Shri Vivekanand Research and Training Institute as
the implementing agency.
Lalji Vishram Chaudhury, the 68-year-old chairperson of the
watershed committee, says: We have received Rs 28 lakh
from the government. With the help of this money we have constructed
4 big dams, 30 small dams and plugged 31 nullahs. He
says the results are showing: Gradually, we are getting
more returns. From one acre (0.405 ha), we can now fetch Rs
1,000-2,000, which was impossible a few years ago. With the
help of water harvesting structures, we have around 400 ha
of cultivable land, most of which was barren.
In the past six years, the 3,500-odd residents of this village
in Rajkot district, which falls in the Saurashtra region of
Gujarat, have come a long way. After a prolonged water crisis,
the village is well on its way to solve the problem through
recharging of wells. Shamjibhai Antala of the ngo Lok Manch,
who has helped recharge around 700,000 wells in Saurashtra,
says: Recharging wells is the lifeline for farmers here.
Of the 150 wells in Mandlikpur, farmers have recharged about
110, most of the work being done by individual farmers. Residents
are also capturing rainwater through roof-top harvesting systems.
Rasikbhai Patel of Mandlikpur says he can now store 10,000 litres
of water every season. It is enough to meet the needs of his
family of five throughout the year. This is the same village
where there are four 300-metre-deep borewells, Antala reminds.
I started recharging my well six years ago. Since then,
it has not dried up, as it used to earlier. Today, it is possible
for us to cultivate rabi crop, he points out. Patels
two wells are 24 metres and 16 metres deep respectively. You
can irrigate 4 ha of land after recharging one well,
Before the village took to capturing rainwater, hundreds
of families used to migrate every year to Surat, Ahmedabad
and Mumbai in search of employment. But the rate of migration
has come down. Even in the current drought-affected year,
very few families have left the village. Going by the
experiences of my neighbours, I have also decided to harvest
rainwater through my well. I am constructing a kundi (a covered
tank) this year, says K V Khat of the nearby Pedla village.
There are varied techniques to recharge a well. Some have
made slopes to direct the water to their farms. Some others,
like Chimanbhai Radadia of Dhoraji, have laid pipelines for
the purpose. Says he: We have recharged our well by
constructing a 106-metre-long pipe that is three metres deep.
In the past five years, crop production has almost doubled.
management in Jhabua
A micro-watershed management project was launched under the
Rajiv Gandhi Mission for Watershed Development in this village
of Jhabua district in 1996. Since then, a lot has changed. The
underground aquifers have been recharged and all the eight handpumps
in the village yield water throughout the year, says Bhurji
Bhawar of the villages watershed committee.
According to R K Gupta, additional chief executive officer
of the zila panchayat (district council) of Jhabua: This
change has only been possible because of peoples participation.
Most people who used to migrate from this village do not leave
now. They have found employment here itself. Even in
the face of the present drought it only rained about
439 mm against the annual average of 980 mm they are
doing quite well. They are confident that their handpumps
are not going to dry up very fast. In the past four
years, we have been able to catch enough rainwater through
the micro-watershed projects in this area, says Kasani
Bai, president of the villages Baira ni Kuldi, a womens
self-help group. Earlier, even normal years proved to be difficult
as there was no water in the area. Today, not only has the
cultivable area increased due to water availability but their
yield per hectare has also doubled, says Gupta (see table:
The watershed boom).
Mohan Singh, sarpanch of Umari panchayat which is about 30
km from Ghelhar, told Down To Earth that after facing severe
crop damages and a drinking water crisis, people in Umari
have realised the importance of wm projects. They are
now demanding wm projects in their villages. They know plenty
of water is available in areas under wm, he says.
Experts all over agree that rainwater
harvesting is the best way to improve the lot of villages
plans, long-term disasters
The government of Gujarat has launched
a project worth Rs 70 crore to dig 120 bores in the
Wankaner taluka of Rajkot district to supply drinking
water to Rajkot city. At present, the city is supplied
water for 20 miniutes every two days. According to P
V Trivedi, district magistrate of Rajkot, the project
is part of a short-term policy. But there
is great resistance to it among political circles.
Digvijay Singh Zala of the Congress
party, who was deputy minister environment in the Union
cabinet from 1982 to 1985, has filed a case in the Ahmedabad
High Court against the plan, saying it will have a negative
impact on the ecology of the region. The area is one
of the few patches where underground aquifers still
have water. Zala fears the groundwater would be depleted
even in this region if the plan goes through. However,
Trivedi says that this is a forest area and there would
be a natural recharge of the groundwater. According
to a senior district official, the plan was laid down
even before a proper study was conducted. It was made
just on conventional grounds that there is potable water
available at 61 metres.
Narottam Patel, irrigation minister
of Gujarat, was quoted in some local newspapers as saying:
We have to provide drinking water to Rajkot at
any cost. We will also face the case in the court but
we will provide the water. We should not discuss ecological
concerns at this moment because water is important for
people at the present. This is the priority for my government.
The only live source of drinking
water from Rajkot to Junagarh is the Bhadar River and
the Phofal dam. As we are drawing water from the Phofal
dam for four cities, including Dhoraji, we cannot draw
more water for Rajkot. Otherwise, the dam will dry up
in another two months. So, we required some solution
to meet the drinking water crisis till the next monsoon,
with a mission
The credit for the socio-economic turnaround of Raj-Samadhiyala
village in Rajkot district of Gujarat goes to Hardevsinh
Balwantsinh Jadeja, the 48-year-old head (sarpanch) of
the village council. He thinks that rainwater harvesting
is the only solution to deal with the grave water crisis
in the Saurashtra region of the state.
In 1985, Jadeja, a post-graduate
in English literature, was selected for the post of
deputy commandant in the Central Reserve Police Force,
a rank equivalent to deputy superintendent of police.
At the same time, Jadeja was also offered the post of
sarpanch by the village development committee. He opted
for the latter, a courageous decision as he was foreswearing
the comfort and security of a government job. If
you are strong as a person prosperity comes to you.
You do not need to run after it. Today, I lead a life
of comfort and luxury in my own village along with my
neighbours, Jadeja observes.
In 1986-88, Jadeja organised
the village to take up 12 watershed management (WM)
projects. He also initiated a drive to plant trees.
Today, the village is one of the most prosperous ones
in the area.
January 15, 2000