Spreading water awareness
The jal biradari (water community) network is growing in Udaipur district, as 80 villages join in. Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti (JSS), an Udaipur-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), is initiating the process of awareness generation among the villagers to manage rainwater.
The major challenge before this network has been on how to make people understand the importance of managing their water resources themselves.According to Tej Razdan, the secretary of JSS, a surgeon by profession, "It has become a habit among the villagers to get work done without moving a finger. They show interest only in those works, which are either funded by the government or NGOs and where they dont have to give their own contribution." JSS devised a comprehensive awareness generation strategy, including various aspects like village pheri, puppet show, plays to get their message across.
Their program starts in a village at around five pm with a village pheri, singing songs at the beat of dholaks, shankhs and harmonium. "This activity draws a lot of attention from the children and they start following us", says Razdan. Around six pm, they begin the puppet show, especially for children to understand the importance of conserving water. This is an interactive show in which a fish is used as katputli (puppet), who speaks to the children directly. The fish narrates how the water is getting scarce and polluted and her voice keeps getting dimmer in the end of the show she dies due to human neglect.
This puppet show attracts the elders attention too. Around this time JSS presents a skit and a street play chhappaniya akaal (about the adverse impact of the severe drought that had hit several parts of the country during the 18th century). Razdan explains, "The skit paves the way for us to introduce ourselves before the gathering. We begin to raise question while answering them as like, Who we are? Why are we in this village? We explain the concept of jal biradari to them. While doing this, we make them realise that we have neither come to work for them nor we have huge funds to implement their works. We can only tell them what can be done under rainwater harvesting, and how groundwater can be recharged or how water quality can be improved? We tell them later that we can show you the way, if you are ready to take initiative."
The program concludes at around 11 pm with another skit that talks about the revival of a river. Razdan joyfully narrates his experience on how people get involved and starts dancing in joy, showing that they have understood the message. This session concludes when JSS activists ask on final question to the villagers,"Do you want to revive your water sources, yourself?" If the villagers answer is yes, then that village joins the jal biradari. Villagers take an oath to conserve their resource. Then with the assistance of JSS the villagers identify the works needed in their village.
Since monsoon 2001, JSS has included 80 villages in the network. In most of these villages the works done are like medbandi, nallah bunding, loose stone check dam and check dams made up of sandbags.
The impact of this strategy is visible in village Dundi Barwada, Udaipur. Villagers came together to reconstruct a 500-year-old earthen water harvesting structure.
After the first meeting the villagers were able to collect Rs 46,000 for material, while also agreeing to give shram daan (voluntary labour) for its reconstruction. Seeing their level of commitment JSS decided to extend their support by providing the construction material such as cement and PVC sheets with the help of few philanthropists. It took just three months to complete the structure that was 100 meter long and 7.2 meter high. The entire structure was completed at a cost of Rs 1.9 lakh instead of 9.5 lakh as estimated by the state department. In a commendable action, the villagers decided to compensate those villagers, whose land laid in the catchment area.
For further information:
Tej Razdan, Honarary Director,
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