Restoring water reserves

Restoring water reserves

water woes

Restoring water reserves

As many districts of the State face drought-like conditions this summer, sights of people struggling to access water have become common. At the same time, there are also efforts to insulate villages from water scarcity through conservation of natural resources.

The tank development associations in many districts have proved that while revival and protection of village tanks can ensure sustainable water availability, proper supply and judicious use can make it available to every household in the village. These associations are formed under the Jala Samvardhana Yojana Sangha (JSYS), a nodal agency for community-based tank management in the State.

The primary objective of this initiative, which was started in the State in 2002 with financial aid from the World Bank, was to rejuvenate traditional water sources with the active involvement of the community. As a first step, village-level awareness programmes were organised to make people understand the significance of tanks and the need to protect them. Training sessions that followed equipped people with knowledge and motivated them to upgrade the tanks. In many villages, tank development associations were formed to work in these lines.

A clear understanding of the necessity of village water sources followed by community-led activities have changed the conditions of villages for better. It required efforts like eviction of encroachments on tank beds and a strict vigilance to avoid such intrusions in the future. Members of the associations also took steps to mark the boundary of tanks and fence them.

Numerous tanks have been replenished under this initiative and the sustainable management lessons offered by them are worth emulating. Though many tank development associations have stopped their activities after the tanks were rejuvenated, some have taken the responsibility of maintaining them. They have explored ways to use water sustainably and enhance livelihood opportunities as well. Farmers in these villages have learnt ways to use water efficiently through farmer field schools. Fish rearing in the tank has become an income-generation activity for some families. Water harvesting practices have helped them maintain the level of groundwater even in harsh summer.

On their own

Interestingly, some associations do not wait for government funds to maintain their tank. Tax collected from tank users and fishermen, and money collected from different sources are used for the purpose. Marikamba Kere Abhivruddhi Sangha in Hirekanagi in Haveri district, Durgadevi Kere Abhivruddhi Sangha in Gouripura in Koppal district, Maruti Kere Abhivruddhi Sangha in Katenahalli in Chitradurga district, Someshwara Kere Abhivruddhi Sangha of Arabbikottanuru in Kolar district are some tank development associations that have set a model for others. 

It is a common knowledge that the groundwater level in Kolar district has gone as deep as 700 feet. But in Kurki village of the district, water is available at 150 feet. Villagers give the credit for this positive development to the tank revival and maintenance work that took place in the village. These activities have also brought a change in the cropping pattern and in the way villagers manage natural resources.

“Encroachment is a major threat to the survival of tanks and it also leads to many other problems like soil degradation. Now we have taken all measures to stop this practice and not even a single inch has been encroached in the last 11 years. Initiatives like JSYS have equipped us with knowledge and guided us to tread the sustainable path,” says Chanaveeramma, a member of Anjaneya Kere Abhivruddhi Sangha in Ballari district.

Mahatma Gandhi Kere Abhivruddhi Sangha of Mallapura in Chitradurga district has extended its activities and has been providing medical facilities to the underprivileged. Elderly people in the village feel that while these associations have protected the water heritage for posterity, they have also instilled a sense of togetherness among villagers. So far, community-based tank management programme has been implemented only in 18 districts of the State and has not expanded to other districts. According to an estimation the State has more than 36,000 tanks. Of them, only 3,900 have been rejuvenated under this initiative. It’s time to emulate the model in other villages and enable them to face the tough phase of drought.

(Translated by Anitha Pailoor)