Oasis in drought-hit Saurashtra
By Mihir Mistry
The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: Three years after they had
accomplished the impossible - building their own checkdams
with money borrowed from the banks, - the people of Devgadh at
Mendarda taluka of Junagadh are sitting pretty while the rest
of Saurashtra reels under drought.
Like any other village in north Gujarat and Saurashtra, the
people of Devgadh did not think twice before installing diesel
sets to pump out ground water in the mid-eighties and early
nineties. In a decade, the pumps ran dry.
Farm productivity plummeted and agriculture, a full-time
job, became a seasonal (monsoon) occupation.
The people realised they were responsible for the
situation, says Sanjay Dave of Charkha, an NGO.
For a village that did not even have a primary health
centre and with just 650 odd residents, the task was enormous.
However, there was no looking back.
They pooled their meagre resources and constructed four
check-dams with the help of a non-governmental organisation.
``No funding, no engineering backup from the irrigation
department, just hard work and a sense of co-operation,'' Dave
The villagers founded the Devgadh Gram Vikas Mandal and
approached the block officers of the Aga Khan Rural Support
Programme who promised to partially fund their project.
They decided to commission two checkdams in the first year
- 1996. They pooled in about Rs 45,000, deposited the money
with Dena Bank and took a loan on that deposit.
Management committees, supervisory and legal committees
were formed and rich farmers pledged to give water for
construction. They used their clout to procure cement and
bricks at low rates. The not-so-affluent farmers and their
families chipped in with shram daan - free
By the end of 1997, the dams were built and with the two
subsequent monsoons of 1998 and 1999, they had enough water to
recharge all the sub-terranean sources that had run dry. Even
in 1999, although the rainfall was not very good, the dams did
manage to collect some water. ``Today Devgadh is reaping the
harvest,'' says Narendra Matalia of AKRSP.
While other parts of Saurashtra and north Gujarat have no
water, the people of Devgadh have enough ground water. All
they have to do is to re-haul their old diesel sets and start
pumping again and exploit the recharged ground water reserves.