The idea for the water conservation project was first conceived in 2014. As Dholpur in Rajasthan reeled under acute water shortage, many villagers in the area had no choice but to move out of the villages in search of livelihoods. The locals supported by Lupin Foundation working in the area decided to come up with solutions to end the agonizing situation. Soon, they convinced Coca-Cola India Foundation, Anandana, to join hands to support the cause of water harvesting in the ravine-laced region of Dholpur.

Nearly three years after the first check dam was built by Lupin Foundation in 2015, the project was further extended to construct another check dam in series. This was a smart move as it also increased the water harvesting potential by almost fifty percent while ensuring that the overflow from the first check dam was being harvested. The success of the first check dam had proven the effectiveness of the implementation team and it was only logical to stick with them. The new check dam was then built by the Rajputana Society for Natural History (RSNH) with the help of the local people, as the initial project team had moved from Lupin Foundation to RSNH. The initiative that has recently been recognised with an award by the Rajasthan state government under the environment category now stands out as a solution that can be replicated.

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The project has changed the fortunes of five villages and its 12,000 inhabitants. The award also confirms how the community working together with other stakeholders can help bring about change which is good for everyone in the vicinity.

“If various segments of the society can work together, we can help improve the availability of water,” Milind Pandit, who works with the NGO Rajputana Society for Natural History and executed the project on the ground, says.

 

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Baby steps, local solutions

Five villages in Dholpur decided to join hands to build a check dam to store rain water they would get in the village. The dam was to add to the 600 mm rainfall in the villages, lower than the national average. The check dam that took six months to get completed was built on the Bamani river, a tributary of the Yamuna. It has now become the source of irrigation for the villages.

Financial aid for the check dams that have created a total water replenishment potential of 1.5 billion litres was given by Anandana. The villagers were so excited that they contributed with their effort and literally took matters in their own hands. No outside construction labour was needed. Only the local community was engaged to build the dams.

200 shallow borewells and 70 handpumps became active after the project was completed. 400 hectares of land could now be brought under cultivation. The lush green fields of the villages tell the story of how fortunes have changed for the people. The project is now being run and managed by the local community.

There are several similar small steps being taken in other regions which tell the story of how small steps can one day, together become a big leap for prosperity.

For hundreds of families, farmers were used to getting a quintal of wheat on their three-acre land. All the farmers were dependent on rain – a good monsoon would boost their incomes and a bad one would cause their farms to wither. With three crops in a year, the family income has multiplied.

Planning body recognises problem

India has been facing its biggest ever water problem with nearly 600 million people facing extreme stress due to water, according to the country’s apex planning body, Niti Ayog. According to the report, nearly 200,000 people are dying every year due to lack of access to safe water.

 While India reels with the problem, community-led initiatives at different locations are showing that local solutions can be found with concerted effort. Several initiatives in the last few years offer a ray of hope for those facing water worries.

Anandana and NM Sadguru Foundation built 29 water harvesting structures in Jhabua District, Madhya Pradesh. The villagers’ efforts, and smart on-the-ground execution led by NM Sadguru has resulted in open wells and pumps having round-the-year supply of water.

In Maharashtra, a watershed management project helped by Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages and Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) has now become the lifeline for 5000 families across 38 villages in Sinnar block, Nashik district in Maharashtra. Villages in the block had to be dependent on tankers for water supply for nearly five months in a year.

The Coca-Cola India Foundation, Anandana was set up in 2008 and the results of its efforts are now showing up in various places. One of the lessons learned during the last 10 years is that communities can solve some of their water-related problems if they are enabled and empowered to make the change.