A global report, which warned governments of major threat to food security because of erratic rainfall, has cited rejuvenation of groundwater under Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme as a success story for other countries to follow but warned against construction of big dams.
A UN affiliated body, International Water Management Institute released the report on Monday, Water Storage in Era of Climate Change and has examined the recent trends of heavy rainfall and drought — terming them as a result of climate change.
Some of the solutions to adverse impact of water availability in future have come from India. One success story reported is from Rajasthan, where 10,000 water harvesting structures were built under MGNREGA to re-charge groundwater.
"It has resulted in possibility to irrigate 14,000 hectares of agriculture land benefiting over 70,000 people," the report said.
These small investments have brought a big change. The villagers are now growing vegetables and other cash crops in addition to normal grains.
Tamil Nadu had achieved similar success through a different path. Several water storage tanks, which were earlier used for water storage in arid and semi-arid tracks, were converted into re-charge ponds for underground water.
The report also said that 499 million people in Africa and India can benefit by improved water management but did not advocate construction of big dams for irrigation purpose.
"Many of the 50,000 large dams built worldwide since the 1950s are intended to store water for irrigation…There are the adverse social and environmental impacts, including displacement of up to 80 million people from their homes and disruption of the livelihoods of some 470 million people living downstream from dams as a result of altered river flows." the report said.
The report instead proposes an integrated approach that combines large and small-scale storage options, including the use of water from natural wetlands, water stored in the soil, groundwater and water collected in ponds, tanks, and reservoirs.
"Just as modern consumers diversify their financial holdings to reduce risk, smallholder farmers need a wide array of 'water accounts' to provide a buffer against climate change impacts," said Matthew McCartney, the report's lead author and a hydrologist at the institute.
"That way, if one water source goes dry, they'll have others to fall back on."