CSE's pilgrims in Madhya Pradesh
Participants and villagers:
learning from each other
The seventh paani yatra (water pilgrimage) organised by CSE on August 26
31, to Jhabua, Dhar, Dewas and Ujjain districts of Madhya Pradesh (MP) was unique.
For the first time, government sponsored programmes like, Rajiv Gandhi Watershed
Development Mission (RGWDM) and Paani Roko Abhiyan (PRA) were highlighted. CSEs
audio visual unit also travelled with the group, organising film shows on water from all
across the country. (See box: from av units diary) 24 people from
eight different states of India participated driven by the urge to learn more about water
and its different facets. (See box: as yatris
From AV units diary
"One immediate impact of the daily
film shows was that the yatris learnt about the traditions and practices of water
harvesting of India. These shows widened their thought process on water and community
participation. This was apparent during the discussions that followed. Government must
change its attitude of provider and should learn to become facilitator. Communities should
stop thinking that they are merely beneficiaries and therefore they have no role to play.
Problems are different, people are diverse, culture and language varies with every 25 km
in India, hydro-geological conditions are different all demanding unique
The yatra began from Dahod. In Jhabua,
Datod village, was the first stop. Here, the works have been done under RGWDM and a
Dahod-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), Action for Social Advancement (ASA), is
the implementing agency (PIA). The process of social mobilisation that encouraged people
to construct the two stone masonry structures on a seasonal river, Modh, attracted the
yatris (participants) attention. "These works have been done with communities
contribution and have the annual potential of irrigating 90 per cent of the village
fields",Balu Singh Bhuria, president of the village watershed committee (WDC) told
the visitors. The day concluded with an interactive meeting between the participants and
the district collector of Jhabua, Neeraj Mandloi.
Ghelar Choti village, in Jhabua, was the next
stop. The participants saw the soil and water conservation works (like, field bunding,
gully plugs, contour trenches, etc), check dams and talabs constructed under RGWDM. As the
programmes has already concluded, the yatris were keen to discuss the issue of sustainable
management with the villagers, once the state phases out its role in 2002. An interactive
session with Akash Tripathi, chief executive officer, Dhar, prepared the yatris for the
rest of the day. With the help of a presentation, he informed the yatris about the ways in
which community-based initiatives in the region have diversified beyond rainwater
The yatra moved on to village Kuradia, to
understand the functioning of PRA. Under this program, a gram jal samiti (village water
committee) is formed. Boori bandh (sand bag check dams) and few dabris (small percolation
pit) were some of the structures which the yatris saw. They were impressed by the
enterprenurial skills of the villagers.
As yatris saw
"Seeing is believing. Paani yatra was an
opportunity to learn about water by actually meeting the people, who are managing it,
Savita Gokhale, New Delhi
"I have started looking at water as a base
of entire society."
Marathe Prabhakar, Maharashtra
The fort of Mandu that holds the ruins of a
sophisticated rainwater harvesting system, set up in 10th century charmed the yatris.
Plagued with severe groundwater scarcity, the fort town depended solely on rain for
meeting the water-related needs. The system comprised of more than 1,200 water tanks and
baolis (step wells) harnessing rain and supplying it through channels and aqueducts. Lack
of maintenance has today put the town at the mercy of supplies from the water tankers.
In Dewas town, the participants had an
opportunity to understand urban water harvesting initiatives. In the beginning, Sunil
Chaturvedi from Vibhavari, a Dewas-based NGO, introduced the participants to the genesis
and spread of rainwater harvesting technique in the region. The town has about 4,500
borewells, of which about 1,200 have installed rainwater harvesting system. To understand
the injection method of replenishing the source, participants visited Moti Bangla, a
Baloda Lakha village, Ujjain, was the final stop.
On a rainy day, yatris reached the village, where the works that started in 1996, have
revived the drying water tables. "The villagers mobilised more resources for
collecting rain than the project", says Arjun Rathod, the president of the WDC.
Motivated by the communities initiative, officials from the State agricultural
department (the PIA) donated Rs 40,000 from their salaries for the works. A pond, which
the villagers call krishi sagar was constructed.
The participants, here got a glimpse of the
strength that water commands in uniting people in a common bond, irrespective of their