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Earlier Yatras

To understand the role of community-based rainwater harvesting in controlling rural poverty, 21 persons from Bangladesh, Italy, Sweden and India joined the fifth paani yatra (water pilgrimage) to the villages of Gujarat. It was organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) from January 27 - February 3.

Lush green fields and water available for drinking as well as irrigation purposes in the villages visited during the yatra made it difficult for us to believe that it rained below average in year 2001 for the third consecutive year. We realised it only when we were informed by the village communities (see box: Yatri's speak) working under the guidance of N M Sadguru Water and Development Foundation, Dahod; UTTHAN in Dahod and Patan; Disaster Mitigation Institute (DMI) in Patan and Surendernagar and Hardevsinh B Jadeja in village Raj-Samadhiyala, Rajkot district of Gujarat.

Yatri's speak

"Before leaving for paani yatra, I had no knowledge of rainwater harvesting but now I will be able to catch rain for my house. I will also share it with my neighbours and friends."
Subhash Prashar, Indo-German Social Service Society,
New Delhi, India

"Paani yatra is a commendable initiative promoting a sense of self-worth and pride at the local community level. Participation in the yatra has enhanced my understanding on water related issues through different levels of interaction."
Elena Mancusi, Society for international development,
Rome, Italy

"My knowledge of water and its management by local community has been sustainably improved. We will implement rainwater harvesting to improve poor people's access to pure drinking water."
Santosh C Sarker, Proshika,

"Practical examples helped me in understanding about water. I will share this knowledge with my organisation, and also link it up with our partners in Tamil Nadu, who are working in agriculture."
Petra Zather,
Swallows, Sweden

"I have actually seen water conservation methods, met with the people involved. This paani yatra will surely make every participant think twice before turning on a tap unnecessarily."
Lalita Pai, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat,
Maharashtra, India
On January 27 the rain joined the natural resource management unit of CSE in welcoming the yatris (water pilgrims) for the detailed presentations on rainwater management in both urban and rural areas, in CSE's office at New Delhi.

On January 28 the group reached Dahod to understand Sadguru's community-based initiatives. The director of Sadguru's, Harnath Jagawat while welcoming us to the organisations campus in Chosala village introduced us to their initiatives and accomplishments of reviving several local rivers and rivulets in the tribal regions of western India. One such river is Kali-II, which we saw at Chosala - approximately 35 kilometers (km) long and with a catchment area of 24,000 hectares. The river has become perennial due to the construction of a series of eight check dams at appropriate distances across the entire length of the river. The yatris appreciated the organisation's recent initiative of digging wells in the riverbed immediately below check dams for an easy access to drinking water during the summer months.

Green fields accompanied us to Mahudi village, Dahod district, where we saw river Machhan, which has became perennial after 1994. A healthy mix of engineering skills and community participation has unleashed ecological, economic and social transformation in the village. Agriculture is flourishing in the village, where earlier there was not enough water to drink. To enhance their economic benefits, the villagers have installed lift irrigation system, which is managed by the community. Every user has to pay Rs 25 per hour for irrigating their fields. The villagers are also adopting innovative techniques ensuring increased production without increasing the use of water - 'telephone system' of growing tomatoes is one such instance that we saw. The discussion with the villagers enhanced our understanding about the dynamics of community mobilisation. Our next stop was Polapan village, Banswara district, Rajasthan, where we understood the processes and impact of watershed works like loose stone check dams, earthen check dams, nallah bunding etc. These works have provided drought proofing to the village. Drinking water is available throughout the year in the village, as women joyfully narrated. Vankol village, Dahod was the last stop of the day, where we understood how rainwater harvesting has strengthened local communities to work collectively for development.

Next day, on January 29 before moving to our next destination the yatris had an experience-sharing session with Jagawat.

We reached UTTHAN's regional office at Limkheda block, Dahod where we were briefed about the organisation and its various activities before moving on to Pipotara village, Dhanpur block, Dahod. Pipotara is a tribal village and due to neglect by the village community, the rain used to flow out from their village. With the guidance of UTTHAN, they implemented soil and water conservation works like, loose stone check dam, earthen check dam, nallah bunding, vegetative contour bunding, cemented check dam - solving their basic problems related to livelihood insecurity.
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