Yatra with a difference
The date was 24th February and the journey was long...
The second paani yatra undertaken between 24-28 February was a pilgrimage of sorts. It was organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi as part of its water campaign. The yatra was a guided tour to Alwar and Bundi districts of Rajasthan, where interventions of Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS) and Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation Development Research Foundation (BAIF) in initiating community participation for water management were observed.
The most striking feature of the yatra was the group that comprised of people from diverse backgrounds. Prior to the commencement of the paani yatra an orientation program was conducted to familiarize the group with the works of TBS, BAIF and CSEs water campaign. CSEs water harvesting engineer presented information about the potential of water harvesting in urban areas. In the same session, S Vishwanath, a civil engineer who has popularised water harvesting structures in Bangalore made a presentation. Deepak Khare, a civil engineer from Indore shared his experiences in propagating water harvesting in the city of Indore.
The paani yatra started from Bhaonta Kolyala where villagers had taken up rainwater harvesting under the guidance of Tarun Bharat Sangh. The yatris were not only shown the water harvesting structures but also briefed about the social mobilisation process behind each structure. Sokhadawala Bandh, is the most vivid example of the communitys initiative. The land which was once indifferently exploited by the villagers for fodder and fuelwood, has now been converted into a peoples sanctuary. The area has been revived and conserved. The yatris visited Hamirpur, the site for Arvari Sansads bhawan. The Arvari sansad or river parliament has been formed from all the villages along the river with the objective of effective utilisation of the available resource. The day ended at the TBS ashram in Bhikampura where the whole process of peoples participation initiated by TBS was discussed with Rajendra Singh, secretary, Tarun Bharat Sangh.
The whole of February 25 was spent in Sariska tiger reserve where the pilgrims saw various water harvesting structures built within the forest. The journey through the forest was long and began with Karna- ka- vas, the biggest water reservoir in the area. The group next stop was at Slop- ka- sajhi, to observe how the topography of the region has helped in formation of a small stream due to recharge of the groundwater table upstream. Pandu Pol was another such natural stream formed due to recharge by the mud ponds constructed in Khaska village 5 kilometres (km) upstream. Singh informed us that the occurrence of such natural springs and streams at various places has shown unexpected results. "There has been a decrease in poaching as now the poachers do not know where to stake out," beamed Rajendra Singh. Siliberi, another anicut on Ruparel River with a budget of Rs 7-8 lakh, generated work of 3,000- 4,000 human- days for the local people. This 200feet long and 17feet high construction has resulted in recharge upstream. Moving ahead, the yatris witnessed the most appropriate example of the ingenuity of gajdhars (rural engineers) at Pheta-ki-paal. Here two embankments were made. One was made by the government, erected perpendicular to the water flow which was destroyed in the first monsoon itself. The local masons made the other structure costing a mere Rs 1 lakh. It was strategically designed and located to prevent the water directly hitting the embankment.
The last structure visited on that day was Tildah anicut No. 2, constructed in Gola-kaBas, a hamlet on the periphery of the forest reserve. The day ended at Mandal Bas where the villagers with assistance from TBS have revived and constructed johads. Here the pilgrims interacted with the villagers and gathered first hand information from the beneficiaries about the transformation their unified efforts have brought about. "We have more time to devote to issues of our family health and education now as we no longer have to spend the whole day in arranging for water," commented an elderly women from the village. On the way to Bundi the pilgrims saw the Siliser Lake, a 10.5 square kilometre (sq. km) traditional water harvesting structure constructed by Maharaja Vinay Singh. From the lake a 22km long Macond aquaduct carried water by gravitation to feed water to the city of Alwar.
In Bundi, RanijikiBaori, a traditional rainwater harvesting structure, was also seen. The rectilinear underground structure with steps leading down to the well was built in 1699 A D was made for Rani Nathavati. It was the centre of all religious and social functions.
The paani yatra ended in the villages of Govardhanpura and Gokulpura where watershed
management has been accomplished by BAIF as part of their programme for sustainable
management of natural resources. The project is sponsored by the India Canada Environment
Facility, New Delhi (ICEF) and commenced in September 1996. The community has been able to
address the persisting water problem through an integrated watershed management. A K
Chourasia, district project coordinator briefed us on the project which covers an area of
700 hectares (ha) of the core villages of Govardhanpura and Gokulpura.
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