Overcoming Water Scarcity
By Vidya Kulkarni
Sixteen year old Kanchan has been spared from the everyday hardship of fetching water – something that her mother and grandmother had faced for years.
Unlike the past generations of women who spent hours fetching water from a community well, or, when it dried up in the summer, had to rely on an irregular supply from a water tanker, Kanchan now enjoys the luxury of flowing water, right in her home.
Not only Kanchan’s family, but all the 2,200 households in Palve village now have household water connections and get a regular supply of clean water, throughout the year.
Palve Budruk, located in the drought-prone Parner Block in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, has finally overcome chronic water scarcity. And it has done so not just by investing in pumps and pipes – but by carefully managing the fresh water the scheme provides.
According to Deputy Sarpanch Gangadhar Kalamkar, despite having a piped water supply, the village still faced an acute water shortage for two to three months every year. And this was becoming more intense and prolonged with change in weather and rainfall patterns.
The scheme consisted of a storage tank holding 35,000 liters of water, and individual taps connected to each household. The water source, a tank, used to dry up in the summer however, just like the open wells of the past, so the village continued to rely on the tanker throughout the Summer.
“The regular water supply we now enjoy”, continues Kalamkar emphatically, “is due to the efforts taken by the community to develop land and ensure rain water recharges the aquifer we rely on. The measures adopted for water conservation have recharged the percolation tank, ensuring us of a regular supply”.
Local action began when the village came in contact with Social Center, an Ahmednagar based organisation, in the early nineties. The organisation provided the funds and some know how, and supported land development activities in the village in order to capture rain water and recharge the underlying aquifer.
What has been achieved since those early days is quite simply staggering. With support from government and UNICEF, villagers developed a catchment plan covering 1,400 hectors – that’s over 80% of the land available. The system now boasts three check dams, 20 canal bunds, two small percolation tanks linked to the main tank and 19 village ponds.
This has been achieved with the entire community: “All major decisions relating to water conservation are taken in the Gram Sabha (village council). A committee, elected from the Gram Sbha, ensure that our plans are implemented” added Mr. Kalamkar. Villagers contributed their labour, and also joined together to set up a community fund, called Nirvaha Nidhi. This ensures that the system is well maintained.