By Archana Sharma
Jaipur, Oct 14 (IANS) The Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF), which recently bagged the annual National Water Mission Awards by the Centre, has scripted many success stories in Rajasthan in the field of water resource management.
Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat recently awarded ACF under the ‘Focused attention to vulnerable areas including over-exploited areas’ category, which is one of the major goals of the National Water Mission.
Ambuja Cement Foundation CEO Pearl Tiwari shared the success stories created by the project in the desert state exclusively with IANS.
“One of the most ancient and traditional structures for rainwater harvesting in the dry desert state are ponds. In Rajasthan, it is estimated that there are about 83,000 ponds. However, the changing social milieu has meant that many of these water bodies have fallen into disrepair due to improper maintenance and the advent of modern forms of water supply,” Tiwari said.
“Across communities, ponds seep water have become polluted and are full of silt which has reduced the quality and volume of water available in ponds.”
In 2003-04, ACF decided to revive four ponds in Rabriyawas (Pali district) in Rajasthan with the idea of making the project sustainable by involving the local community to ensure “they embrace and manage each pond for future generations.”
“We started working with local communities of Balada (Pali district) and Lakholav (Mundwa tehsil in Nagaur) where ACF was committed to the supply of machinery for de-silting of ponds. The huge manpower and transportation required for the removal of silt from the site was provided by the community,” Tiwari said.
This soil was high in nutrients and provided a great resource to add top soil to farmer fields and build farm bunds to trap and channel water.
“So hand in hand, they got to work. ACF deployed machinery for pond excavation, shaping and de-silting, whilst women and men rolled up their sleeves – bringing in tractors from fields to shift the huge quantum of soil to nearby fields,” she said.
“Together they revived the ponds, resulting in an additional 10,800 water storage capacity in Balada and 3,626 cubic meters additional water storage capacity in Lakholav. And the ripple effect in the community was unbelievable,” she added.
According to the CEO, farmers were able to bring 120 acres more land under cultivation, wells in the surrounding areas were recharged and soil fertility improved.
There was a 66 per cent decrease in dependency on piped water and 57 per cent decrease in tanker water. Expenditure on water reduced by 67 per cent in Lakholav and 14 per cent in Balada, and expenditure on health reduced by 22 per cent in Balada and 47 per cent in Lakholav, she said.
“With a total investment of Rs 6.78 crore through the years of our work, it impacted 1.91 lakh people, 441 ponds were revived and over 3 MCM (million cubic meter) water storage was created,” she said proudly.
Speaking on other programmes being run by ACF, she said: “Water Resource Management is the flagship initiative in Rajasthan to harvest surplus runoff to augment water resources. The major activities undertakenA by us include revival of traditional water sources, water harvesting, groundwater recharge, in situ moisture conservation, promotion of efficient irrigation methods, creating awareness through school rallies, village camps, training, exposures and post maintenance system.”
ACF has been working in the 3 districts in Rajasthan – Pali, Nagaur and Jhunjhunu in the Jaitaran, Mundwa and Chirawa blocks of these districts, respectively. Ground water in these districts is affected by higher concentration of dissolved salts and fluoride.
She further says, “For drinking water, in Pali, the community is dependent on ponds and open-dug wells while in Nagaur district they depend entirely on ponds. The community is dependent on the traditional ponds which were dug a long time ago. Over a period of time most of the water bodies filled up with silt and surface water retention capacity of the ponds was affected drastically.”
Rajasthan has a few seasonal rivers that provide water to the villagers. Over the years, these rivers have steadily become silted. Resultantly, they have become narrow, are unable to carry optimal quantities of water and have horizontal run-offs.
Another consequence of this narrowing of rivers is that the amount of water that percolates into the ground decreases, reducing the ground water level. These problems are especially severe in desert areas.
ACF has started the work of de-silting and renovation of ponds to restore the ancient reservoirs and enhance the capacity of the ponds. The de-silting work was carried out with participation of the local community which has increased substantially.
“We provides technical and financial support for execution of projects while transportation of dug out soil is carried out by the community through deploying tractors voluntarily, making it a win win for both of them,” Tiwari says.
(Archana Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])