New water project in parched Kolar, Chikkaballapur

The KC Valley project has recharged groundwater in downstream villages of Kolar and Chikkaballapur. The MARVI project will focus on upstream villages. DH FILE PHOTO

The water-deprived districts of Kolar and Chikkaballapur which are looking up to the KC Valley project for groundwater recharge may soon get expert help to quench their thirst. 

The Australian Center for International Agricultural Research has collaborated with the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Bengaluru, the Centre for Next Generation Technologies in Adaptive Agriculture and Western Sydney University to launch the MARVI project in five villages of Kolar. 

The MARVI, or the Managing Aquifer Recharge and Sustaining Groundwater Use through Village-level Intervention, project engages villagers to monitor and manage groundwater in their respective lands with the help of scientists and researchers, including UAS students from soil science and horticulture backgrounds including psychologists. 

The researchers, with the help of villagers, collect data, including groundwater levels in every piece of land, the amount of rainfall that these villages receive, the quality of groundwater, etc. They will figure out the balance between the amount of rainfall received periodically and the available levels of groundwater in order to calculate how much more water needs to be recharged. Based on the result, watershed activities such as digging recharge borewells and other sustainable practices will be introduced. 

"The government-run KC Valley project has been able to recharge a good amount of groundwater in villages lying in the downstream of Kolar and Chikkaballapur. During our research, however, we learnt that villages upstream require more recharged groundwater as they are absolutely water-deprived," a researcher said during an international workshop on groundwater monitoring, planning, recharge and sustainable use at the Gandhi Krishi Vigyan Kendra here on Thursday. The reason why Kolar and Chikkaballapur were chosen for the project is that these are dry districts. 

While the MARVI project is funded by the World Bank and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) among other agencies, efforts are also being to get funding from the state government. There are also plans to cover some rural parts of Bengaluru under the project. 

Getting villagers on board is the biggest challenge, according to the project overseers. "We will identify leaders (villagers) interested in working for this project and we'll gradually persuade other villagers. Gaining the trust of villagers takes a lot of time," said S Rajendra Prasad, Vice-Chancellor, UAS. "Initially, villagers asked questions such as why they should do it. Now, they are asking questions such as what is the groundwater level in my field."

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