A few villages in Bundelkhand are creating oasis in their semi-arid and drought-hit region. They are not inventing new concepts, just replicating the ones ‘innovated’ by waterman Rajender Singh and Bundelkhand’s ancient Chandella dynasty.
By pooling in money, resources and labour—farmers are creating perennial water resources for irrigation. And the results have been very encouraging.
For years, Bundelkhand had seen crop failures due to lack of rain. Now, some villages have decided to stop depending on the government and resolved to tap rivulets passing by. By building check-dams on them, they are creating their own community-owned reservoirs. Villagers are also developing ponds to store rainwater, whenever it comes.
Himmatpura and Migni, both villages of Jalaun’s Madhogarh tehsil, are leading from the front.
Following example of Magsaysay awardee Rajender Singh, Parmarth, a voluntary organisation based in Orai, floated the idea of creating community-made and owned reservoirs last year.
With a total cost of Rs 2.25 lakh, Migni villagers made two check-dams and also created a pond by investing another Rs 26,000 in 2005. They raised twenty per cent of the money and did ‘shramdaan’ (voluntary labour) to create these reservoirs. Himmatpura too built a check-dam with a cost of Rs 2.35 lakh.
Now, the villagers and Parmarth have resolved to make Migni Panchayat as the first ‘Sookha Nirodhi Panchayat’ (drought free Panchayat) in the region. They, then, plan to use it as a model to bring a ‘water revolution’ in the region, says Sanjay Singh of Parmarth. Three more check-dams, to achieve 100 per cent irrigation in the village, are proposed in Migni.
Harishankar Dhohere, gram pradhan (village head) of Bhimnagar Uncha, who has four acres of land in Himmatpura village, says: “My land was barren, but last year it yielded two quintal of musturd. I am going to cultivate vegetables this season.”
“I will replicate the success story of Himmatpura and Migni in my village too,” said Dhohere. He has already started a money-raising drive in the village.
Nearly 150 bigha of land, fed by the bigger check-dam in Migni, produced a yield of 600 quintals last season. The villagers now plan to make embankments along the reservoirs to prevent silting and soil erosion. They have already initiated a tree plantation drive suggested by local environmentalist Ram Krishna Shukla.