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Monday 29 May 2000

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Seminars can't help harvest rain, says Hazare

By Parul Chandra

The Times of India News Service

NEW DELHI: Into a plush conference room of the Capital's Vigyan Bhawan last week walked a man in spotless white dhoti and kurta, sporting a Gandhi cap. For two days he sat quietly through the proceedings of the `National seminar on rain water harvesting' organised by the Central Ground Water Board.

The subject was not new to Annasaheb Hazare, the man who rallied the villagers of Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra into transforming their once barren land into a lush green area of prosperity some two decades. In fact, this was the third seminar on the subject Hazare was attending. Now one of 19 members of the Water Conservation Mission launched in Andhra Pradesh, Hazare, however, doesn't find much being achieved through such gatherings.

``Lakhs are spent on such seminars. But there is little by way of implementation,'' said Hazare. ``Discussions are held, papers are submitted, but no work is done.'' There were more officials from the CGWB, he said, than from NGOs who have done considerable work in the field of watershed management.

Also, he wondered why senior officials from various ministries handling water-related programmes also do not attend when decisions are being taken affecting the country's water management. ``We all need to come together if a policy decision is to be taken.'' There are over half a dozen departments dealing with watershed management with little coordination between them, he pointed out. And the story is the same at the state level too.

With water scarcity increasing in various parts of the country, rain water harvesting assumes importance, Hazare said. Depleting ground water calls for strict laws to check the digging of tube-wells. ``Ministers, of course, are more concerned about losing kursi if such a law is made,'' Hazare tartly added.

And while watershed management and rain water harvesting have been talked about for the last four decades, the results are not uniformly visible, he remarked.

Why? Watershed development is a shastra where focus has to be at the village level. Technical details form part of this shastra, he said, citing the instance of Maharastra where technical problems led to the failure of over 50 per cent of the percolation tanks built there.

The cooperation of people too is needed, he emphasised. He should know - it was their shramdan that transformed Raleganj Siddhi. Neither can water harvesting be a success if it is made available for free, he said. ``Muft dekar nahin hoga (it won't work if it is for free).''



The Economic Times


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