Many areas of Madhya Pradesh continue to be in the grip of a haunting water scarcity. Parched water reservoirs, diminishing hopes, dry matkas, and blank eyes staring at the blazing skies have become some of the tell-tale signs of the acute water shortage that arid villages face.

For Mathura Devi, a resident of Ramnagar, in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh, it was all about waiting for raindrops in that extended spell of drought. Despite having four acres of land, she had to limit her cultivation to Kharif crops, largely between May and July, solely because of an insufficient supply of water for irrigation. Her husband Nathua Sahu, had to leave to work in big cities as the monetary returns from farming weren’t enough to take care of the household needs.


Things took a turn for the worse when Nathua passed away. A drought occurred in the same year, making it a nightmarish ordeal for Mathura Devi to look after her two children. The majority of her land could not be irrigated due to lack of water. The rains were so unpredictable that the family could not depend on them. To support the family, her son, Raju Sahu, had to take up manual labour in Bijawar, a small town in the vicinity. At least that ensured some regular income.

“We had no income before,” says Raju Sahu, describing the ordeal due to insufficient water supply due to which they couldn’t use their lands for farming.

Water has been a challenge for Chhatarpur district, situated in the north eastern border of the state. Paddy, wheat and jowar have been the traditional crops grown here while some villagers also grow timber. 

It was back in 2014, when Haritika, a non-government organisation started working on addressing water issues prevailing in these villages. It wanted to build a sustainable local solution that could address long-term water needs of the villagers.

In 2016, things started to improve when, with support of Anandana, The Coca-Cola Foundation, Haritika was able to build the Kanji Kwala check dam under the Pragati Gram Project.

The project consisted of construction of eight structures to help store water, as well as recharge groundwater. In Ramnagar, four dams were constructed, including the Kanji Kwala check dam, ensuring regular water availability in homes across the village.

“Even drinking water wasn’t sufficiently available earlier,” Avani Mohan Singh, Founding Member, Haritika, recalls tough days.

Putting an end to Mathura Devi’s ordeal, the Kanji Kwala check dam proved to be a life line as it provides sufficient water for basic needs and irrigation. Raju Sahu now works on his own fields, which ensures regular income for his family. Additionally, Mathura Devi has started cultivating Rabi crops.

मथुरा देवी के अनुसार, “रामनगर के सबरो जन पानी की बूँद बूँद के लाने तरसत हथो लेकिन रामनगर के चेक डैम और अगरा के तालाब से जमीन में भी खूब पानी हो गओ, कुंवन भी भरे रहत । हमाए ओर से और रामनगर के लोगन की ओर से कोका-कोला और हरितिका खा बहुत बहुत धन्यवाद।"

(According to Mathura Devi: “People of Ramnagar were thirsty for water. The check dam is now full of water and so are wells. From the people of Ramnagar, I would say many thanks to Coca-Cola and Haritika.”)


Their land produces soya bean, wheat and a few other crops, which is good enough for their own consumption and for selling. Compared to 2016, the output has doubled.

From being dependent on the vagaries of the monsoon, which could make or break farmers’ lives, the dam ensures water availability for at least 10 months in a year. This has helped Ramnagar see a new ray of hope. With water reaching the farms, the women of the village do not have to travel long distances in search of their daily needs. Their families are happier as they can spend more time in their native land.

For the families of Chhatarpur, who were used to looking heavenwards to address their water worries, the solution was found on ground.