An EU-supported project is contributing to poverty reduction in the drought prone districts of Bihar, Jharkhand and Bundelkhand in Madhya Pradesh through its support to integrated water management. Traditional water conservation structures are being revived to store rain water; and cost-effective filtration techniques for drinking water are being propagated. At the same time, community management of water resources is being developed to ensure that costs and benefits are equitably shared. The project is centrally managed by Welthungerhilfe and locally implemented by NGOs like Sampurna Gram Vikas Kendra(SGVK) and Ghoghardiha Prakhand Swarajya Vikas Sangh (GPSVS). The EU will contribute Rs. 5.2 crs. (or 75%) towards project costs.
In Kararkala a small village of 227 households in the rain shadow district of Palamu in Jharkhand, and comprising mainly Chero tribals, backward castes and scheduled castes, agriculture is the main occupation of the people. Unfortunately, the area is drought prone and there are no irrigation facilities, so that people struggle to make a livelihood. Migration for wage labour is high in the area.
The traditional ahar pyne system consisting of water harvesting structures (ahars) connected to each other through diversion channels (pynes) is being rebuilt on tried and tested principles. The ahars are embanked on three sides, the fourth side being open to allow inflow of rain water according to the natural gradient of the land itself; and pynes transport the overflow of water from one ahar to another. Villagers contribute a day’s work each week desilting the ahars and making the channels.
By de-silting of the main village ahar i.e. Badka Ahar (400 ft x 200 ft) to a depth of 3 ft. its storage capacity will increase by 30%, allowing 200 acres of land to be irrigated during the monsoon (kharif) season. One to two watering of winter crops in 40 to 50 acres during the winter (rabi) season. A part of the additional produce of the village will pay for the upkeep of the structures.
As the ahar is situated nearly 5 feet above the village level, the water table of nearly thirty-five wells will increase significantly and village farmers will be able to grow vegetable crops to increase their income. As an impact of this water conservation and utilization of rain water, the Ahar Pyne revival demand will be generated in the surrounding villages.
The Madhubani district of Bihar, on the other hand, has the opposite problem of frequent flooding together with high iron content in groundwater. For afflicted villages, a simple three- layered matka (earthen pot) filter of brick tiles, charcoal and sand separated by mesh has been tested and found to be effective in purifying water and bringing iron levels down from 3 mg./litre to 1 mg./litre.
In the course of these initiatives villagers will have been trained in water quality testing, hand pump repair, sustainable agriculture including the installation and use of drip irrigation and treadle pumps, the installation of ecological sanitation (ecosan) systems; and – most critically – in the skills required to access government grants and facilities.
The EU-funded water management project in central and eastern India will have benefited around 120,000 persons by the time the project ends in the second quarter of 2015.