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Vol. 4   

No. 3

June  2002

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Pride of Doon

Figures first. Crop yield in Doon Valley has increased by 18 per cent. The area under vegetables and new cash crops has expanded. The income from cultivation and milk production has increased by 40 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. In nine years, the Doon Valley Integrated Watershed Management Project (1993-2001) has helped in the regeneration of the ecosystem, while also enhancing the living standards of the locals.

The project adopted a participatory approach and Gaon Resource Management Associations (GAREMAs), were set up in 353 villages for coordinating and implementation. Its membership extended to all the adult members of the households in the village. It took time for the locals to adjust and reorient themselves to this new approach, as till then they were used to subsidies and single-sector interventions. A villager said, "At first, we treated the project as something of a joke. After seeing the work and the way our women have come forward and progressed, we realised its worth."

During the implementation period, self-help groups for women,revolving credit funds, habits of reciprocal obligation were initiated among the stakeholders to strengthen the communal bonds.

As awareness increased, the garemas assumed ‘ownership’ for project activities. In 1997, to enhance the gains made by Garema, the focus shifted on common economic enterprises by combining villages in a cluster - leading to the formation of COREMAs (Clusters of resource management associations).

A formal recognition has facilitated Garemas interaction with the panchayati raj institutions, which will now continue to provide support.

Source:
Keith Virgo and John Roe 2001, Why was Doon Valley project a success?, National workshop on ‘Watershed management strategy for Uttranchal’, Watershed Management Directorate, Dehradun

Tackling water scarcity

In recent times, the increasing competition between water users has made it imperative that states, instead of going for ad hoc measures, adopt an integrated approach to balance demand and supply for water. Some steps taken by states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Andra Pradesh are commendable, but their long-term impact is yet to be gauged.

To enhance water supply, the Pulianthope Ward Committee in Chennai has made rainwater harvesting (RWH) mandatory for all buildings. "To get the tax assessment, water and electricity connections, the residents of that particular building must harness rain."However, unlike Chennai, the Banglore Mahanagara Palika has made RWH mandatory only for upcoming residential and commercial structures.

Besides this, in many areas like Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and Rangareddy district, Andhra Pradesh, digging of bore wells within a distance of 150 meters have been completely banned to control unregulated groundwater extraction. In Kothagudem, Tamil Nadu, prior permission of the village secretaries has to be sought before digging new wells and a distance of 250 feet has to be maintained between two bore wells. Goa has moved a step ahead with the state’s governor signing the ‘Groundwater Regulation Bill, 2002’ , facilitating the setting up of a groundwater cell.

Among the initiatives for managing demand, rationing and pricing are most popular. In Banglore, the hike in charges for water supply are a part of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) plan to regularly revise these rates in a phased manner to bring them in line with the cost of providing water. Till recently, says Vidyashankar, Chairman of the BWSSB, "Whenever, there was a rise in power rates, water tax was also hiked as the cost on power comprises 60–65 per cent of the total operation cost."

But is water pricing a feasible measure to limit demand? Yes, depending on the way it is implemented. BWSSB revised the rates keeping in mind the paying capacity of different income groups, unlike Mumbai, where slum dwellers have to pay 50 per cent more tax while industrial units are exempted from the hike. Another instance is that of Rajasthan, where the government after signing a Rs 734 crore loan agreement with the World Bank decided to abolish the subsidy on irrigation water, leading to a 400 per cent increase in user charges. Such measures, if handled inefficiently could result in a disaster.

Turning point

This is a story of the women of Gauraiya village in Sagar district, Madhya Pradesh, who, rewrote their destinies through their willingness to change. Their village like any other village in the region was water scarce. Women had to walk long distances to get a bucket of water.

In 1997, with a little help from the Rajiv Gandhi Watershed Management Mission, these women formed a village women watershed management committee in a multi-caste feudal village, which was once a wretched stretch of barren land. Today, the fruits of their hard work are there for all to see. There is a potable water source within the village and productivity levels have improved. Added to that, social fencing has ensured the survival of about 90 per cent of the 5.5 lakh trees planted on common land, including about three lakh teak and two lakh bamboo trees.

That is not all. These empowered women also run seven saving groups that help them live life on their own terms.

 


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