Infusing new life into tanks

collective action

Infusing new life into tanks

The presence of tanks and lakes in the villages indicates the significant role they play in nurturing rural lives.

As the years rolled by, tanks lost their prominence due to many reasons and gradually, they became defunct. Though many government and non-governmental efforts have been initiated to rejuvenate tanks, not many have achieved success. But some villages of Shivamogga district have set an example by reviving five tanks through community participation.

The seeds of tank revival were sown in 2012 when a group of enthusiasts led by Harish Damodar Nawathe, a resident of Sagar town, realised the need to bring village waterbodies back to life. Harish says, “Initially, it was an uphill task to convince people to join the effort as tanks were no more part of their lives.”

The beginnings

As a way forward, the team decided to organise activities, particularly swimming, to attract people. When people realised that the rejuvenated tank could be used for swimming activity apart from irrigation purposes, they started showing interest. Harish explains, “Convincing people that the work doesn’t involve money and is not for anyone’s benefit took some time.”

Manchale Tank was the first one to be rejuvenated. Initially, the team visited each household in the village and conveyed a message that their family members could learn swimming if the tank is cleaned. The team did not ask them to join the cleaning work. They only asked them to witness the team’s work. Gradually, the villagers got involved in the work. The news spread and the residents of neighbouring villages also joined hands. Needless to mention, most of these volunteers were eager to learn swimming. The tank was cleaned in 20 days. The pushkarini (sacred tank) in Anandapura was the next waterbody to be cleaned. This tank is dated back to the period of Shivappa Nayaka of Keladi Nayaka kingdom. Hundreds of people of Anandapura and Malanduru worked diligently for three months to clean it.

People of Anandapura town extended their cooperation in one way or the other. Some hoteliers in the town provided free food to the volunteers and some provided materials required to clean the tank. Later, Purappemane Tank was cleaned. The fourth tank to be cleaned was Bheemanakone Tank and the fifth was the one in Suryanajaddi. The area of each rejuvenated tank is between two to four hectares.
Of all the rejuvenated tanks, Bheemanakone Tank is the best maintained one. The credit goes to the active involvement of the villagers. The tank, locally known as Karadi Kere, has become an integral part of the village.

Participatory approach

The revival work of Bheemanakone Tank was done in stages. The work began with 10 people. After two weeks, the residents realised the usefulness of the work and  joined hands. The water level in the tank rose from 10 feet to 15 feet after the cleaning work. It took around 20 days to start swimming sessions after cleaning the tank. After three years, now it is common to see villagers of all age groups swimming in the tank. Everyday, they clean the tank in the morning and evening. It is mandatory for all those who swim in the tank to remove waste and weeds around the tank before jumping into water. Not only has the revived tank facilitated a healthy lifestyle among these villagers, it has also enhanced the ground water level of the region.

Men, women, children and elderly people of the village try many swimming styles and floating in the water in yoga postures is one of their favourite pastimes. “Such activities have ensured proper maintenance of the waterbody, making it central to village life again,” Harish says. “We have realised that the health of the tank is closely linked to human health,” says a villager.

Cost-effective low density and high density thermocol flotation devices and fishing balls are used to learn swimming. The swimming equipment is made by the villagers themselves. Many people, who had never dreamt of swimming a few years ago, have become expert swimmers now. Vinaya, a villager, says, “I was very scared of water initially. Even my husband was under the impression that swimming was not meant for women. After watching other women, I made up my mind to learn swimming. It took more than a month for me to swim confidently. Now, I swim everyday.

It has helped me overcome back pain and headache and I have lost body weight.” Shobha K, principal of Hongirana school at Amatekoppa near Bheemanakone, says, “Bheemanakone villagers have adopted innovative methods to maintain the tank. It is a model for other villages too. The significance of this initiative is that it has helped people surpass all the inherent barriers like age, sex, caste, race etc. Now there is a feeling of oneness among the villagers and there is no hierarchy here. Most importantly, the work is not led or facilitated by any formal organisation. By all means, it is a community effort.”

Farmer Narayanaswamy B K says, “We are all connected to the tank and have an emotional attachment with it. So, none of the villagers dump even a small piece of paper into it.”

Kere Habba is celebrated once in a year when all the villagers gather in the tank premises. Apart from swimming and yoga, cultural programmes are also organised on the occasion. Deputy Commissioner M Lokesh says, “I appreciate the efforts of Bheemanakone villagers to rejuvenate the  tank without seeking any assistance from the government. It is high time we realise the importance of tanks and the need to conserve them. The district administration is committed to lend a helping hand to the team and spread the practice to other parts of the region too.” Those who want to know more about the initiative can contact Harish on 8277552679.

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