A class for the governors
Hope for Bhopal


What...err policy
A step towards a wetter tomorrow


Diamonds are forever
An oasis in the making
Small does matter


Water harvesting at Kinetic Engineering
Zero runoff technology
Preachers become practitioners



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Vol. 2                                    No. 4                         August 2000

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An oasis in the making

Indicator of prosperity at Govardhanpura village

The villagers of Gokulpura and Govardhanpura in Bundi district of Rajasthan had reason to celebrate, despite the fact that the summer of 2000 was devastating for Rajasthan. Bhartiya Agro Industries Foundation Institute (BAIF), a Pune based non-government organisation with the financial assistance from India Canada Environment Facility (ICEF), New Delhi, has been implementing the watershed work in these two villages since 1997. This has had a phenomenal impact on these two villages. The two villages, predominantly inhabited by the Meena tribe have water virtually at their doorsteps for drinking purpose and they have harvested abundant crops in both kharif and rabi. They still have surplus water to cultivate summer crops. This is in sharp cotrast to a survey of the area conducted prior to watershed implementation activities. This survey revealed a dismal picture about the villages. The watershed area receives an average annual rainfall of about 360 mm which is extremely erratic. Rainfall failures are common. For instance, rainfall in 1998 was only 220 mm and that of 1999 was 250 mm. Hilly terrain, low soil fertility, denuded wastelands with rock outcrops and high rate of soil erosion are the highlights of the region.

Implementation process
For implementing the project, a significant proportion of responsibilities were transferred to people’s institutions created at the grassroots. There are seven watershed committees, one charagah samiti ( one common pasture land committee), and 13 women’s self-help groups involved in the project. While implementing the watershed project, a great deal of importance was attached to the indigenous knowledge of the people. There was a good balance between traditional knowledge of the people and scientific methods for initial assessment, planning and implementation of the project activities.

The watershed project has to a great extent helped in building capacity of the two village communities in not only executing the activity but also for its maintenance.

The different works that have been accomplished in the project are:

  • Field bunding on 176 hectares of land;

  • Development of common pasture land;

  • Afforestation on 30 hectares of land, and;

  • Horticulture development on 30 hectares of land.

As part of the drainage line treatment following activities were undertaken:

  • 1300 gully plugs;
  • 25 stone bunds;
  • 13 permanent check dams/anicuts;
  • 3 underground bandharas (sub surface dykes), and,
  • Construction of 11 gabion structures. These structures have been constructed using locally produced net made from grass.

Outcomes of the project
During the implementation of the project, a mid-term survey and analysis of the proceedings after completion of the 3rd year was conducted to find out the impact of the project. The results of the survey are of the drought year when the annual rainfall was about 250 mm in 1999 which was much below the average rainfall of 360 mm. Following were the results of the surveys, and it was extremely encouraging for the implementers:

  • The area under kharif crop before the programme was executed was 268 hectares. This has increased to 350 hectares in 1999 because of the watershed project;
  • The area under rabi crop has also increased by 65 per cent because of the assured irrigation from openwells;
  • There is an increase in the summer crop area by seven per cent over the baseline;
  • The main crops of the area include maize in kharif and wheat in rabi season. Due to sufficient water availability and improved agricultural practices, the increase in the crop yield has been substantial. The maize production has increased from 1 tonne per hectare to three tonnes hectare;
  • Approximately 80 per cent of families are using improved varieties of crops and at least 40 per cent have shifted to improved breeds of cows and buffaloes;
  • The drinking water sources, mainly hand-pumps, are now free of microbial counts due to the close supervision of the villagers. Women have to spend only one hour for fetching water in comparison to two to three hours before the project, and;
  • Some of the streams have been rejuvenated and have started flowing perennially. Some of the water harvesting structures have water throughout the year.

Prior to the watershed programme, the village had 200 wells which normally used to remain dry during the summer season. Presently, there is sufficient water to ensure irrigation for the summer crops. One of the substantial outcome of the programme has been in the increase of agricultural produce. An approximate estimate based on the additional area brought under cultivation and the increase in production per hectare indicates a net benefit for Rs 1.4 crores worth to the villagers.

The two villages, predominantly inhabited by the Meena tribe have water virtually at their doorsteps for drinking purpose and they have harvested abundant crops in both kharif and rabi. They still had surplus water to cultivate the summer crops.

Apart from obtaining benefits from agricultural produce, the villagers have also accrued benefits from the charagah (common pastureland). In 1999, from the charagah eight tonnes of fodder grass was obtained, 50 per cent of which was used by the people for their cattle. The remaining 50 per cent was auctioned. Approximately 250 bundles of broom grass were collected, half of which was for local utilisation and the rest was sold in the market. The financial transactions concerning the charagah are managed by the charagah samiti. The funds collected are mainly utilised for future maintenance and management of the asset.

With the enormous success being experienced at the midway of the project period, villagers from adjoining areas are motivated to replicate the initiative in their respective villages.

For further information contact:
B K Kakade, BAIF, Dr Manibhai Desai Nagar
National Highway No 4, Warie,
Pune – 411 029, Maharashtra.
Telephone: 5465494, 5469955



Small does matter

The small-scale efforts in water harvesting of the agricultural engineering department, and the donation of agricultural land by a family of four brothers for the construction of percolation ponds, has improved agricultural production in Lakshman Nagar, a small village in Theni district of Tamil Nadu. The village is situated in the foothills between Varisainadu and Kambam valley in the Western Ghats. The annual rainfall is about 700-750 mm in the area.

There are about 40 wells in the Seepalakottai watershed where this village lies. The watershed area is about 350 hectares. Since it is a village situated in the interiors, only between 1–12 acres of agricultural drylands have dugwells. The remaining area is rainfed.

L Muthuswamy, resident of the village along with his brothers was able to increase their land under cultivation because of the work accomplished by the agricultural engineering department. Each brother had 10 acres of land with one small dugwell. They used the water from the well to irrigate cholam and take a single crop in about 1-2 acres. In dryland, groundnut, cholam and red gram are normally cultivated. When the agricultural engineering department took up the implementation of Western Ghats Development Programme, four check dams were constructed in a deep jungle stream. Knowing the utility of percolation ponds the brothers gave two acres of land to construct one percolation pond. Later on they gave another two acres to construct a second
percolation pond in the watershed.

Prior to the construction of water harvesting structures in the village, water from the dugwell could be lifted through a motor for about two hours only. So the villagers had to frequently resort to deepening of wells every summer, spending about Rs. 10,000 each year. The average depth of the wells in the village was 100 feet, and during summer all the wells became redundant.

The villagers used to get approximately five bags of cholam per acre. Hence, to supplement their income, they worked as agricultural labour. After the contour bunds, check dams and percolation ponds were constructed in the watershed area, the people in the village started to cultivate banana, coconut, mango, and guava under irrigated conditions in 15 acres and kept another 15 acres for growing cotton and vegetables. All the farmers in the village concluded that after the execution of the Western Ghats Development Programme, they have been able to conserve rainwater, which has resulted in overcoming the water crisis in the village. The farmers periodically remove the silt accumulated in the check dam/percolation ponds and use it as fertiliser in their agricultural land.

As a result of the water harvesting works, drinking water is available to the villagers during the summer months. Lakshman Nagar is having enough water and food at present and the farmers are a satisfied lot. They are also helping distressed people coming for jobs to their village. Hence, it can be said that this is an effort to create a Ralegan Siddhi in Tamil Nadu.

Contributed by:
Dr. R K Sivanappan
14 Bharathi Park, 4th Cross Road
Coimbatore – 641 043 Ph: 0422- 456555