Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals,communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Country Water ActionsIndia: Villagers Lend Hand to Revive Historical Legacy
The drive to Jatara in Madhya Pradesh, one of the mostbackward states in central India, is a long one. Thehistorical significance of the region grows with the ride fromthe state capital Bhopal to Jhansi and then through a two-hour long ride to Tikamgarh. Upon arrival at the destination,one gets the feel of the magnificent history of the area.
Jatara is home to thehistorical Chandeli watertanks built by Bundelakings and feudallandlords in ancienttimes. But neglectand disrepair over thepast decades had nearlywiped out thismagnificent historicallegacy.Enter a group of professionals who assisted local villagersto rehabilitate the tanks. Encouraged by the governmentand Canadian donors, officials from the non-profitdevelopment group Self-Reliant Initiatives through JointAction (SRIJAN) have helped local communities revive thenear-defunct Chandeli water tanks.The revival is still on-going and it can be seen in Shahpuravillage. A visit from journalists raised palpable excitementamong local villagers who eagerly told the story of howthey had tried to change their destiny with the renovation of the tank in their area.Sixty five year-old Haricharan Rajput, a member of thetank user’s group (TUG) managing committee, says thatmany years ago, when the tanks were functional, its waterswere used up to 2.5 kilometers away.But in the 1970s, the government’s Water ResourceDepartment (WRD) converted the tanks for large-scaleirrigation purposes. “The plug that used to let water outwas replaced with a sluice gate that went half way acrossthe ‘bund’ and left the other half open, letting loose soil bewashed away with rainwater. This led to the continuous flowof water,” he says.Over the years, says another TUG Managing Committeemember Karanju Pal, they would lose a lot of water becauseof seepage and severe water-logging in adjacent areas. “Apart from the loss that people faced, fisheries andlivestock too have been hit by this loss of precious water,” he adds.
“THE WORK WE HAVE DONE”
The discussion with journalists was followed by a visit to thetanks where the elders proudly showed “the work we havedone.” They walked slowly through the area and explainedthe previous problems and the corrections that have beenmade with assistance from SRIJAN.In spite of the progress,however, nature stillexacts its toll. Villagersmention that “while a lotof good work has beendone, the Gods have notheard our prayers.” Littlerain has fallen in thearea in two years.The pride these men havein their work manifests in little ways as they proudly showedwater-logged areas that used to be uncultivated.This area of roughly 80 acres or so used to besubmerged throughout the year because of seepage fromthe tank, villagers say. After cultivating the rice crop, therewas very little that they could do. The land was a waste forthem.Today, the entire stretch has neat plots of various crops. “This has been made possible only because water does notleak any more,” says one of the villagers.SRIJAN is loved in this area today, but when it first camehere two years ago, villagers suspected its motives.Rajput, Pal and a colleague Punno Ahirwar laughed andrecalled the early impression they had formed of the SRIJANteam - that the group had come to collect contributions andwould ultimately loot them. An exposure to Jaisinagar inneighboring Sagar district, where SRIJAN has anotherproject, helped TUG office bearers realise that they couldchange the future course of their village.In February 2004, farmers got together to form a committeetasked to oversee the revival of the tanks. Withcontributions of 6,000 Indian rupees (133.33 dollars) fromthe village, and 125,000 rupees (2,777 dollars) fromCanadian High Commission (CHC) to SRIJAN, work on theShahpura village tank began.