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
"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
"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,
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."
"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,
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.