By the people


Open letter to the
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Khandwa,Catching every droplet
The lost pond


From the courtroom
Face to face
Destroy, then revive


Woman power
Paying up
A tiny oasis in Uttar Pradesh
CII’s water meet
Rotary’s initiative
Brick by brick
Nurturing the future
CSE’s pilgrims in Madhya Pradesh
Taking initiative
Experiments with water


Pure rain
In a great hurry!


As priceless as amrit
Reviving pynes


D V Subramanaian
Ashutosh Agnihotri


Rain centre inaugurated
The Alacrity cycle
Porous roads
Plumbers’ meet
Women’s meet


Making a mark in Laburnam


Pollutants to bind roads
Make your own rain gauge
Smart farming tool
Techno tit bits















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Vol. 4                                         No.4           August-September 2002

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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) responsible.

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 couldn’t 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 responsibility, collectively.

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.

Gupta’s ‘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 requirements.

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 Khandwa.

  • 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 nearby villages.
  • 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
Zilla panchayat
Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 0733-23264


Copyright 2002  Centre for Science and Environment