It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to farm when your village is draught-stricken. It is even more difficult when the people who can farm migrate to cities to earn some money, to help others to survive.
Five villages in east Rajasthan were going through a similar fate. Rajasthan is known for its miserable summers, with temperature rising over 50 degrees Celsius. And the situation worsens when people are not aware that they should lock their taps, and tanks for storing water are divided along communal lines. Disputes over water are common.
The only crop they are able to farm is bajra (pearl millet) which is suitable for this arid weather condition but hardly generates any income. Eventually, due to consumption and weather conditions the reservoirs and wells run dry, compounding the challenges of the villagers.
The farmers of Dhaulpur had had enough, and decided to take charge of the situation. As a villager recalls, “We decided to build a check dam to tap the water of the Bamani river, a tributary of the Yamuna, which has a catchment area of 28,000 hectares.” The check dam was decided to be constructed on the outskirts of village Totri in Dhaulpur which would facilitate water conservation and a steady supply for irrigation.
A local civil engineer meanwhile, extended a helping hand and prepared the design of the check dam. Its height was planned at around 3 meters, its width 72 meters. Finally, work began with much gusto. “The villagers were so enthusiastic that they contributed in the construction and the services of laborers were hardly required. From the young to the old, everyone volunteered and it was completed within six months,” said Hem Singh Kushwaha, the sarpanch of a nearby village.
Due to the evident profits of farming, reverse migration began, brining smiles to families of many. Ummed Singh, whose son had left to work in Mumbai, has come back. He said, “We are now better off financially than most of our counterparts elsewhere in the state. The check dam has come as a ray of hope for us as it has revitalised several tube wells and handpumps. There is now easily available water for irrigation.”
Clearly, when everyone contributes to solving a community problem, the solution is found faster than many could imagine!