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Water crisis: Hazare village shows way

Social activist Anna Hazare may be engaged in a bitter battle with the government over corruption but his village in Maharashtra has provided a national solution to depleting underground water levels.

delhi Updated: Jun 16, 2011 00:19 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Social activist Anna Hazare may be engaged in a bitter battle with the government over corruption but his village in Maharashtra has provided a national solution to depleting underground water levels.

The Ashok Chawla committee on how to manage natural resources had recommended that the Central government should adopt the Ralegoan Sidhi and Hiwri Bazar model, where the local community has imposed self regulation on extraction of underground water.

The recommendation comes in wake of the committee’s finding that 60 % districts in India have a problem related to quantitative availability of quality of groundwater. Most districts in northern India are under stress for ground water recharge.

The proportion of unsafe districts in India for underground water exploitation has increased from 9 % in 1995 to 31 % in 2004. The areas under these districts have gone up from 5% to 33 % in the same time period and number of affected people has increased from seven to 35 %, the report said.

The possible solution to aggravating ground water problem could come from unique model adopted in Hazare’s village Relegoan Sidhi in drought prone Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. The erstwhile barren village inspired by Hazare has metamorphosed into a unique model of rural development due to its effective water conservation methods, which made the villagers self-sufficient. Earlier, the same village witnessed alcoholism, utter poverty and migration to urban slums.

“In Relegoan Sidhi, the community agrees to drilling of new irrigation borewells only if the farmer installs drip or sprinkler irrigation,” the report said, adding that farming community can achieve both higher agriculture productivity and drinking water security through careful garnering of water resources.

Setting an alarm on availability of ground water in future, the Chawla committee had recommended that the government should set up public trust doctrine as done in case of surface water. It means that access to groundwater should be ensured to all by terming it public resources and the government should have power to charge a fee for the same.

For this, it has recommended a national legislation which the states should adopt. “What is intended is a kind of umbrella legislation under which laws will be enacted, policies frames, rules and orders issued, and executive actions taken, at different levels,” the committee said.

To improve ground water management in India, the committee has asked the government to increase monitoring of water sources and do periodic checks on the quality, which was found to be deteriorating in majority of Indian districts.

The committee has suggested the Gujarat model to check over-exploitation of groundwater by having a separate electricity feeder for tubewells. In Gujarat, the government provides eight hour continuous power supply to tubewells, thereby restricting the use of ground water.