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Oriental Bank Of Commerce  

Check dams ensure perennial water supply

By T.K. Sreevalsan
Mahudi, May 17



Dimunitive Kalabhai would have been busy in his groundnut fields had the monsoon not failed last year. But the 45-year-old tribal is not complaining. The rivulet that runs adjacent to his farm has enough water to sustain him and, equally importantly, his cattle.

The Machchan, which meanders along eastern Dahod, has in regular succession 14 check-dams, ensuring that the locals are not faced with a drought threat despite the area receiving only scanty drizzles during the last monsoon.

Thus, quite in contrast to the not-so-far Sukhi, which has dried out like most of the main rivers in this drought-hit state, Machchan manages to still retain a portion of the water it collected during the 1998 monsoons, thanks to the traditional wisdom of erecting check-dams.

“This dam was built in 1993 with community participation. It cost Rs 10 lakh, and has a storage capacity of 12 million cubic ft,” points out Rakesh Pandey, chief engineer with Sadguru Water and Development Foundation, a leading NGO. Kalabhai is happy. “But for the check-dam, we would have had to migrate. In that case, I would have been forced to starve my cattle to death,” he says.

Such was the gratitude of the locals that, on the day the dam became operational, each of them gifted coconuts to the masons who helped with the construction on the three-month project. “They sang, danced and even came out with impromptu slogans hailing water-harvesting techniques,” recalls Harnath Jagawat, director of the foundation, which works in 350 villages across the tribal-dominated parts of the state besides the bordering belts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

The efficiency of any watershed programme could be maximised if only it makes it a point to construct several bunds along the course of a river. “The distance between each dams should be such that the mouth of the water stored by one bund should meet the tail of the next patch of water,” explains Harmeet Saini, senior programme executive with the Dahod-headquartered Sadguru.

On one bank of the rivulet squats a woman, washing clothes, a group of boisterous children playing around. The middle-aged Bhuri, mother of four, comes here every day for bathing and washing, from her village Bombella, a good 2 km away.

“Water is scarce and I do not mind walking down all the way once a day,” she tells a team of journalists taken to this village by the Delhi-based research group centre for science and environment. The undulated land around has some patches made flat.

Points out Sanjay Singh, who heads Sadguru’s watershed development programme.

“The earth for building the bunds was used from some of the nearby mounds. Now flattened, they (mounds) are being irrigated under the terraced-farming technique,” he says. “It is just not terraced farming which forms part of a visible change in the topography of the land benefitting from the watershed programme. An eucalyptus estate in the vicinity of the Mahudi checkdam has trees increasing in number over recent years. “With regular availability of water in this belt, several of the eucalyptus rootstock have lately started sprouting,” shows Eklavya Prasad, who networks CSE activities.

Agro-forestry, which plays a major role in soil conservation programme, has led to 90 villages being taken under Sadguru’s endeavours to attain a healthy 35 per cent tree-cover. “Since 1982, we have spent Rs 5 crore on agro-forestry. The trees grown over the period are now worth over Rs 300 crore,” points out Mr Jagawat, adding that his foundation is also into providing the tribals with the options of running plant nurseries, horticulture farms, grazing and dairying.

Mr Jagawat, who has been into seeking micro-level solutions for water shortage, is not against construction of big dams. “Endeavours like Sardar Sarovar Project are a must. If the river is Narmada, the dam should also be big. But such projects should be supplemented with smaller dams along rivulets,” he says.


 
 
 
 

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