Demand for MGNREGS funds for desiltation of open wells

As many as 11,000 open wells were dug by utilising funds under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) between 2013 and 2016 in Dakshina Kannada district. Now, there is a demand seeking funds to take up desiltation of open wells.

“Open wells have been helpful in finding a permanent solution to the water crisis. There is a demand to utilise the funds under the scheme for removing the silt and deepening the well to improve the sources of water and groundwater table,” Jana Shikshana Trust director and Cleanliness Ambassador for Dakshina Kannada district Sheena Shetty told DH

He said several SC/ST families in the district had dug up open wells utilising funds under the scheme. Instead of supplying water through tankers, the authorities should take measures to dig open wells to find a permanent solution to open wells, he added.

According to officials, there is scope for utilising funds under MGNREGS for digging new open wells. To remove the silt and for taking up the work on deepening the wells, the state government should submit a proposal to the Central government seeking approval, they said.

Kashipattana Gram Panchayat President Sathish said, “We had dug over 220 wells in the Gram Panchayat jurisdiction utilising funds under MGNREGS for the last seven to eight years. The wells are helpful in mitigating the water crisis. The officials should allow the utilisation of funds under MGNREGS to remove the silt and take up the work on deepening the wells. If minimum Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 wages are paid under MGNREGS, then families can remove the silt in the well. The water is cleaner after we desilt the well and the water-level too increases.”

According to the circular of Ministry of Rural Development of the Union government, the funds under MGNREGS should be used for all those works that aim at rejuvenating the groundwater, including sources of drinking water and rainwater harvesting. In addition, the work on bunds, dykes and other works that help in the rejuvenating groundwater table can be taken up.

Section 5 of the MGNREGA says, “Wells, farm ponds and other water harvesting works can be taken up.”

According to the 2001 Human Development index of Dakshina Kannada, 54.65% of the families are using the open wells on their premises for water requirement. About 31% of the families are having both wells and depending on purified/unpurified tapped water supplied by authorities.

Contrast to 2001, the Human Development Index of 2011, there was an increase in the usage of piped water supply to 31.90% from 20.37% in 2001. Even the dependence of borewells increased from 5% to 8% between 2001 and 2011.

In the 2011 census, water sources were also included, not only the wells  within the premises of the houses but wells situated 100-metre to 500-metre radius of the houses as well. Accordingly, 79% of the families are depending on the wells situated within the household premises while 13% are dependent on water sources situated near the houses and 7% are fetching water from faraway places.

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