People fight back

Delhi Harvesting

Centre goes for decentralisation


Enhancing public understanding

Initiating solutions

Spreading the good word

Youth for action

Agents of change


A quest for water

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Vol. 3                                       No. 4                               August 2001


Agents of change

The jal biradari (water community) network is gaining strength in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The process of mobilising water warriors for spearheading the water campaign, at various levels is strongly on the move particularly in these states. Two such mobilising efforts were made by Shri Kundla Taluka Gram Sewa Mandal (KTGSM) in Savarkundla tehsil, Amreli district of Gujarat and Sadbhavana Vikas Samiti (SVS) and Mahila Hasth Shilp Samiti (MHSS) in Nokha tehsil, Bikaner district of Rajasthan, through setting up jal biradari.

Jal biradari is a network formed to make participatory rainwater management a national movement, by organising its meetings and creating water warriors at different levels.

Amreli, Gujarat
In Savarkundla tehsil, the initiative of spearheading this network has been undertaken by Manubhai Mehta, project coordinator of KTGSM. In October 1995, they initiated a water resource development project, which not only brought a marked improvement in the groundwater tables and agricultural yields but also minimised the water crisis during the drought period.

KTGSM organised three taluka level jal biradari meetings on poonam (full moon night), in the month of chaitra (March 26 to April 8), vaishakh (April 9 to May 7) and jyesth (May 8 to June 6) 2001 in Savarkundla district. The first meeting was held at an ancient Parab vav (Parab well), located on the boundaries of the three villages Chhapari, Dedkadi and Vijpadi. The participants decided to form the Savarkundla taluka jal biradari motivated by the efforts of Tarun Bharat Sangh’s (TBS), an Alwar based non-governmental organisation (NGO) in constructing 700 johads which brought 70 villages of the region under one canopy — the Arvari sansad (Arvari Parliament). The positive impacts of the first meeting were visible during the vaishakh’s meeting. The number of members increased with many other villages joining the biradari. The biradari members have attempted to rationally combine their religious belief on Jal deva (water god) with their traditional knowledge on rainwater harvesting and management, to ensure an efficient usage of rainwater. In this context, they decided to annually organise Jal jilani agiyaras (worship of water) in each member village after the first monsoon shower.

The efforts of the participants paid off, as during the third meeting, the region received a good downpour, and most of it was successfully conserved due to the presence of the properly constructed water harvesting and conservation structures like, checkdams, percolation trenches and nallah plugs.  In most of the villages like, Khodiya, Ambardi, Ginia, Bagoya, Moldi, Dhar, Bhuva, Nana Bhamodra, Khadsali, Dedkadi to name only a few, Jal jilani agiyaras was conducted in the presence of the saints. In the remaining villages this pooja (worship) will be conducted after the second monsoon shower. In this meeting, the members of Gujarat State jal biradari were finalised. They also took a decision to form district level jal biradaris in the state of Gujarat, and Manubhai Mehta was given the responsibility to form this network in Amreli district.

These three jal biradari meetings in Savarkundla tehsil clearly indicate a progressive management change in the attitudes, understanding and practices of the locals in conserving the rainwater, which has already started showing its positive impact.

Bikaner, Rajasthan
Bikaner’s first and second district-level jal biradari meetings, also followed a similar trend.

The second jal biradari meeting in Naukhada village in progress

The second jal biradari meeting in Naukhada village in progress

 Influenced with the national conference of jal biradari  held at Neemi in April 2001, Pradeep Singh Chauhan secretary Sadbhawana Vikas Samiti (SVS) and  Vimla Kaushik, secretary of Mahila Hast Shilp Samiti (MHSS) formed the district jal biradari in Bikaner. The first meeting was organised in Bikaner district after the completion of the desiltation of three ponds in Surdhana Padiharan, Jaiglaa and Jaagaloo villages of Nokha tehsil. The low carrying capacity of the ponds to retain the rainwater was the primary reason for their present drinking water crisis. According to the biradari, about 600 ponds in the district are filled with silt and this problem is relatively more severe in Nokha, Kolayaat and Bikaner tehsils of the district. Says Pramod Kaushik of MHSS, “The cost of the desiltation work in these villages were jointly borne. Some 67 per cent was borne by TBS and Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART), New Delhi, and 33 per cent by the villagers. The water carrying capacity of these ponds have increased by 10 per cent, which has not only benefited the villagers and their livestock but also wildlife.”

Both these experiences clearly indicate that villagers are recognising the central role of community participation in the implementation of the raiwater harvesting projects

The need to consciously involve women in the conservation and management of water resources was duly recognised during this meeting. The participants recognised the need to adopt an integrated watershed development approach thus not only limiting their vision on the protection of their natural resources (like pastureland development) but to move ahead by adopting various environment-friendly income generating occupations (like livestock development, developing cottage industry). The members rightly stressed on the need to complement these physical activities with the efforts aimed at character building of the villagers, to ensure an all round development of the village and its human habitats. The positive impact of the water conservation works has now extended from three villages to 14 villages. The villagers of these 14 villages have not only solved their drinking water problem but have also saved themselves from the troubles of migrating in search for employment.

Seeing the success of their initiative and need of further works related to watershed programmes in the Bikaner district the jal biradari members organised a paani pad yatra (march to create create awareness on rainwater harvesting) from 16 to 21 August, 2001. The pad yatra started from Motavata village in Kolayaat tehsil of the district with 70-80 people raising the slogans like “Jal Bachao Jal Biradari Banao (Save water, make water community), Jal Bachao Johad Banao, Ghar Ghar Mein Pani Roko, Gaon Gaon Panidhar Banao (Save water make ponds, stop water in every village, make every village water self-reliant). The pad yatra was lead by  Rajendra Singh, who has taken the initiative of strengthening this network, at the national level. During the yatra he said, “Water is the first neccesity for the animals also in addition to human and there is no water security for them. The pad yatra covered 11 villages covering about 75 kilometers and finally culminating in  Naukhada village in the form of the second jal sammelan (Water conference), at the district level.

Villagers from about 15 villages including Motawata, Khari Charnan, Naukhada, Beethnokh, Madhogarh, Mandal Charnan, Naya Gaon, Tokla, Raoneri participated in the second jal biradari meeting. The villagers took an oath to become panidar and work for  the revival of indigenous water harvesting structures to make their villages drought free.

Speaking on the occasion, Rajendra Singh said, “The people of Bikaner have a sound understanding of water. They know how to work for water conservation through johads and tanks. Firstly I am interested to know the traditional knowledge of the region then we will go for training. The youth of the region will be trained to revive the existing structures and if needed we will make new structures also.”

He assured the villagers that, “with their actire contribution, TBS would manage partial funds to maintain their traditional structures.” He warned about the efforts of government to commercialise water through new water policy and said, “If we do not stop these efforts the social equilibrium will be endangered.” Vimla Kaushik, president of district jal biradari assured that, “We will immediately  renovate old ponds and create new one wherever required.” Pramod Kumar Chauhan, who is also associated with jal biradari informed that, “About 10,000 people have requested for water conservation in their area.”

Paani pad yatra creating awareness in Kolayaat tehsil of Bikaner

Paani pad yatra creating awareness in Kolayaat tehsil of Bikaner

Both these experiences clearly indicate that villagers are recognising the central role of community participation in natural resource management. They are also realising the need and significance to regularly interact with individuals and institutions, beyond their village boundaries.

For further information, contact:
Shree Kundla Taluka Gram Sewa Mandal-Savarkundla
Water resource development project Khadi Karyalaya
Opp Railway station

Pradeep Singh Chauhan, Secretary
Sadbhavana Vikas Samiti
Behind Shiv Mandir,
Subhashpur, Bikaner
Tel:0151-547484, 231968

Vimla Kaushik, Secreatary
Mahila Hasth Ship Samiti, Behind Shiv Mandir
Subhashpur, Bikaner
Tel: 0151-541082

Copyright CSE  Centre for Science and Environment