CSE's pilgrims in Madhya Pradesh  
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Earlier Yatras
  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. CSE's audio visual unit also travelled with the group, organising film shows on water from all across the country. 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 saw)

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 harvesting.

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, intelligently." 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 residential colony.

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 socio-economic backgrounds.


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