12th Pani Yatra - Maharashtra  
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Earlier Yatras

Yatris learning from an enterprising woman in Hivre Bazaar
Nov 17, 2003, District Ahmednagar, Maharastra. The small bus, proclaiming "Water gives Life" winds its way through the dusty track that leads to Dharewadi village, where CSE's Pani Yatra is to begin at Watershed Organisation Trust's training centre. Twenty expectant faces peer out the windows at the parched drought-scape, a few wondering perhaps what good was watershed development or rainwater harvesting when there was no water…

Talking to a family in Hivre Bazaar about how they had fared during the last 3 years of drought. Thanks to watershed development, all their wells still had water and their cows plenty of fodder.
Three years of drought has been unkind to the state; the sky is sullen and the dams yield little water. Tanker supply of drinking water to villages is the norm. Yet there are those lucky villages where wells still have enough water for drinking, and vegetation still covers the lands. This group of people from different states - AP, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bengal, Delhi, including 2 yatris from the US and a CSE volunteer from Sweden have come to see for themselves how this is possible. Most yatris are moderately familiar with the concept of watershed but many had come specifically to learn. For example there was a couple who had flown all the way from London for the Yatra to learn more about watershed because they are planning to return to India and start their own work in a year.

The yatris pose for a "group picture", each wanting to take home memories of good times together.
After an orientation and an introduction to watershed and some issues involved, the yatris explored the village of Dharewadi. In the evening we sat with about 20 of the villagers, mostly womens groups to discuss their views and roles in the watershed development process. The next day took us to Mahswandi, a watershed area in a higher rainfall region, also a WOTR-funded project, where the implementing agency was the Sangamner sugar factory.

The third day of the Yatra was spent in Ralegan Siddhi. Once again a talk on watershed and the Ralegan approach was organised which was beneficial to many of the yatris and there were a lot of questions raised. After a tour of the physical works in the village, a long session with Anna Hazare ended the day's visit. A few enthusiastic yatris went on to visit the neighbouring village where women held the post of sarpanch and watershed committee president.

The next day we visited Chanda, a village where farmer's management of irrigation systems was introduced for the first time as a pilot project. The yatris also paid a visit to the local school where yatris Samiksha and Anoop Agarwal were moved to the point of donating school textbooks, a gesture much appreciated by the students and teachers.

The last day of the yatra, saw the group in Hivre Bazaar, where the young charismatic sarpanch Popat Rao Pawar has succeeded in turning his village from a crime-riddled and alchohol-steeped one to one that is today a model for others. They have been experiencing "reverse migration" in the last few years as the apparent prosperity lured back those who had left. All this because of watershed management and participation of the village community in improving their lot, keeping water as a focus.

The yatris had a lot to learn from what they saw and, importantly, from each other. The watershed community is expanding beyond our villages.

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