Khandwa, catching every droplet
Even with 50 per cent of annual rainfall, it is possible to
avert drought a practical experience from Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh (MP).
|The lost pond
A 30 feet deep pond in the parched Vasant
Kunj, Delhi, was levelled for constructing a parking lot. Even a Supreme Court directive
to protect it, failed. Threatening calls have silenced everyone. An official from Delhi
Development Authority (DDA), warned us that, "No one will speak. We were preparing it
for recharge and had no idea that it would be filled up". The pond is located on
Aruna Asaf Ali Road, covering an area of three acres, worth Rs 50 crores.
A year ago with Central Ground Water Authorities (CGWA)
technical support, four percolation pits with borehole were constructed by DDA and the
resident welfare association. Project cost exceeded Rs one lakh. The water from adjacent
two blocks (B-3 and B-4) was being diverted
to these recharge structures. Last year, due to low rainfall the pond
was dry and someone grabbed this opportunity to fill it up. Everyone
spoken to, held Vinod Khatri, owner of Sahara restaurant (just opposite the pond)
The question is, why was this allowed to happen,
when the recharge work was in progress? No one was willing to talk openly. CGWA expressed
complete lack of awareness. S B Singh, the officer in charge, CGWA, restricted its
involvement to giving technical inputs. Chandana, one of the officers-in charge with DDA,
told us, "The land belonged to Sahara. So, they can do whatever they want to."
Dispelling all doubts Arun Mishra, deputy secretary to chief minister of Delhi, clarified
"The land belongs to DDA. We knew that Sahara is involved. But as Vasant Kunj comes
under DDA, a Central government, we couldnt do anything."
Perhaps to prempt any official action, Khatri
organised a bhoomi pujan for building a temple giving it a religious colour. Such
rampant constructions are common, here. They can be stopped,if the people learn to take up
The rainfall in this region, for the past three
to four years has been 30 to 40 per cent less than usual. Inspite of this people here,
have remarkable achievements to highlight like, no drinking water problem, no fodder
shortage, soil erosion has reduced by 90 per cent, per capita income has increased
two-fold, and almost this entire area is under rabi cultivation. The chief executive
officer, zilla panchayat, R K Gupta, and his team has innovatively redesigned the existing
strategy for the works done under Pani Roko Abhiyan (PRA), a community-based rainwater
harvesting program of the MP government, that has resulted in this transformation.
Guptas total water management
strategy entails that "Rainwater should not walk, it should crawl and
creep", that is after every ten meters (m), earthen structures are constructed to
store and percolate the runoff. Even five to seven centimetres (cm) of rainfall does not
go waste. "After completing the water budget (a detailed assessment of the demand and
supply of the water) of the district, it became evident that 90 per cent of the water is
used for cultivation and, most of it is groundwater. Thus, this source needs to be
replenished", emphasised Gupta.
The size and kind of the structures is determined
by the cost of water that they store. All the structures like, earthen checks, kundis,
bunds, bori bandhans, Khandawa hydraulic structures have been redesigned to meet the local
The program does not attract people with entry
point activities (like construction of road or temple) unlike the other watershed
programs. "In 2001, we started with the technical training of 14,000 villagers, with
the hope that atleast 1,000 of them will actually implement and, it happened. In
one village, a villager diverted the access water used in animal shed to the dried
borewell. After 15 days, he found out that a dry handpump about 100 m has started
yielding. The villager realised the importance of rainwater harvesting. And, we just
shared such experiences to motivate others", shared Gupta.
Following are some of the experiences from
- It took some time for the people of Dhanta village
to understand the concept. Initially, with the cooperation of the few villagers, nallah
(drain) recharge work was undertaken. The entire catchment area was treated with total
water management technique. Three months after the monsoon, the water table in the pond at
the tail end of the nallah started increasing. This incident changed the attitude of the
villagers. As a result, "The wells that used to dry up in summers even after normal
rains, now have adequate water. It just takes four hours for the well to recharge after
eight hours of extraction", happily shared a villager.
- The villagers of Dhotakheda collectively
constructed a kuccha bandh on a seasonal nallah Chotapchaad. With this structure
not only their annual water problem was solved, but they had enough water to share it with
- Jeevan Singh Pawar, a resident of Attubhikari
village, about 16 km from the district headquarters, recharged a nearby well by diverting
the leaking water from the air valve of the irrigation pipeline. With the result, the well
that used to dry up in the month of January had water at ten feet - enough water to
irrigate the rabi crop.
These stories clearly indicate the strength of
rainwater harvesting systems in effectively dealing with drought. "We are at the take
off stage, as now people start the works and then approach us for financial assistance.
This is our achievement," says Gupta.
For further information
R K Gupta
Chief executive officer