The third paani yatra was organised by Centre for Science and
Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based non governmental organisation
(NGO) from July 8 to 14, 2001. A total of 25 people from different
regions and diverse backgrounds participated in the yatra. The
group included architects, geologists, zoologists, doctors and
representatives of NGOs from Uttaranchal, Orissa, Gujarat, Haryana
and Chandigarh working on the issue of water and community development.
The paani yatra was a guided tour to the rural areas in Maharashtra,
where communities have cohesively harvested water and are presently
sharing the benefits of their labour. The yatra commenced from
Darewadi village in Ahmednagar district and moved on to Shilvirigaon
and Devgaon in Akole tehsil in the same district where the work
of the Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) was observed. The
yatra then proceeded to Ralegan Siddhi to witness the water
harvesting work accomplished by the people under the leadership
of Annasaheb Hazare (See box: Turning point). The yatra
culminated at Hivare Bazar, where sarpanch Popatrao Pawar, following
the footsteps of Annasaheb has transformed the village by motivating
the villagers to take up water conservation activities.
The paani yatris bask
in the aura of Anna Hazare in Ralegan Siddhi
The group reached the WOTR training centre in village Darewadi
on July 9, 2001, to observe the watershed work initiated and
supported of WOTR. The paani yatra began with an orientation
programme in which the group was introduced to the works of
WOTR, Anna Hazare, Popat Pawar and CSE's water campaign. A
presentation was also made on the previous paani yatra to
Alwar and Bundi.
Watershed Organisation Trust
Established in December 1993 as a support organisation for
village self help groups (SHGs) and NGOs implementing watershed
development projects, WOTR projects are spread over 1.33 hectares
(ha) in 259 villages across 22 districts in Maharashtra.
One of the projects undertaken by WOTR where the watershed
development programme is in the final stage, is village Darewadi.
Darewadi, located around 90 kilometres from Ahmednagar, falls
in the rainshadow region of Sangamner taluka and has a semi-arid
climate. The normal average rainfall is 282 millimetres (mm)
which is extremely erratic. The total area of the watershed
is 1,535.24 hectare (ha) of which, 934.85 ha is arable land.
The rest is hilly and uncultivable. Recalling his childhood
days, Maruti Gauri Awhad, chairperson, village cooperative
society said, "After Independence, the Bhils and Thakurs
started cutting the forests which by 1962-63, were all gone.
The land soon became barren and unproductive, since with no
forest cover the soil got washed away."
The 131 households of the village with a population of 1,000
persons including seven landless families were mobilised and
supported by WOTR to take up watershed development as a means
to address their water problem. The villagers agreed to follow
the rules put down by WOTR. These rules included four days
of shramdaan, a ban on grazing, felling trees, and borewells,
plantation of water saving crops and restricting sugarcane,
rice and banana cultivation. WOTR initiated a comprehensive
capacity building programme (CBP) under the Indo German Watershed
Development Programme in April 1996. In the CBP, 100- 150
ha of area was treated by the community with WOTR rendering
technical support and training related to project management
to the village committees on watershed and the SHGs. The decision
about the kind of treatment was carried out through social
mapping in which the entire village map was laid out in front
of the villagers on which the planning of the watershed was
done. This was followed by participatory planning where a
detailed survey was undertaken with the land holder's family
and decisions about the kind of interventions were taken on
the site. The project moved on to full implementation phase
in April 1997 in which the project was managed by the village
watershed committee having 23 members, including six women.
The watershed project focussed on poverty alleviation through
equal distribution of benefits from the watershed development
works. Therefore instead of a drainage line treatment that focuses
only the water channels, a ridge to valley approach was applied.