Breathing new life into an old tank

Breathing new life into an old tank

It was full of knee-high bushes and had turned into a dumpyard, because of poor management. However, all this was in the past, back in August 2009.

About two years later, things were different. There was a newly-built parapet, inlets that were cleaned and boards that spread awareness about tanks. People of this nondescript village had come together to bring about change.

Gopalanahalli is a village with 120 houses. Small and marginal farmers, and a few landless families dominate the village. The entire community is dependent on the tank which irrigates 43.75 hectares of land. However, no one took care of the tank over the years. Silt accumulation meant poor water storage capacity. The tank was dying a slow death.

The turnaround began in 2009 with Jala Samvardhana Sangha (JSYS) selecting 40 tanks in Chikkanayakahalli taluk for its community-based tank development project. The Gopalanahalli tank was included in the programme. In the beginning, the villagers didn’t show much interest. Raghu, a lecturer, took them into confidence.

Along with office-bearers of the Sangha, he  created awareness about the need to conserve and develop the tank. Also, the Kalabhyreshwara Banashankari Tank Development Society came into existence.

According to the project guidelines, the community is expected to bear six per cent of the expenses required for tank development. While the government released Rs 19,78,604, members of the Society were asked to contribute Rs 1,18,716. Villagers raised the money by way of a door-to-door campaign.

According to Project Coordinator M G Padmaprabha, Gopalanahalli residents were the first in the district to have contributed their share for the project. Work on tank rejuvenation began in earnest following collection of funds. Weeds covering the tank were cleaned up. Half of the de-silting work was completed before the onset of rain.

Catchment areas were developed to ensure flow of more water into the tank. A nursery of over 22 species was created on the periphery of the tank. As many as 1,450 saplings were planted in an area of three-and-a-half hectares. Every Sunday, the entire village participated in tank rejuvenation work. One year later, the saplings have shot up and nearly 90 per cent of the plants have survived.

Agricultural activities have gained momentum following the rejuvenation of the tank. Research work has been taken up in farmlands in association with the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore. The number of farmers growing vegetables and fodder has gone up. The Society has earned an income of Rs 25,000 by way of fishing. Members who borrowed money from the Society have repaid it in six months, said sociologist Veena.

The changes heralded by the community have now become a model for the rest of the community to follow. Many institutions such as the Dharmasthala Rural Development Society have come forward to implement their schemes in the village.

Apart from rejuvenating the tank, the residents of Gopalanahalli residents have also taken the initiative to construct a bridge. Water from the overflowing tank fed a large pond in the village and villagers had to wade through it to reach their homes.

District coordinator Nagaraja Naik sought permission from authorities concerned to construct a bridge. An action plan was prepared in one-and-a-half months and work was executed under the supervision of the Society.

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