A small district in Himachal Pradesh, a traditionally dry area that has experienced water woes for several years, is showing India how to conserve water.
To tackle water scarcity, villagers in the district began harvesting rain water in khatris (deep pits) lined with impervious rocks, several years ago.
This simple form of water conservation caught the eye of the district administration, and, 11 years ago, it launched a water conservation drive in the region.
They began by experimenting with harvesting water from rooftops of about 14 village houses.
Soon, a series of check dams were built to hold rain water for using after rains. Today, Hamirpur has 4,339 small and big check dams and 507 farm ponds.
“We have achieved it by involving the community,” says Abhishek Jain, deputy commissioner, Hamirpur. “We also brought all the departments, working separately on water conservation under one roof for effective results.”
In the last six months, 666 traditional water sources in as many villages have been rejuvenated in government land.
Rooftop rain water harvesting tanks have been installed in schools and village council offices and buildings.
The results are there to see. The ground water level in Hamirpur has shown an increase of over a metre from 2000 to 2008, according to NASA satellite data.
“We are able to use the water stored through check dams as per our own needs, for household requirement or for irrigating our fields,” says Mathu Ram (54), a farmer from Kasiri village. “The hand pumps near the dams are re-charged.”
Inspired by Hamirpur’s success, the state government has decided to spend 40 per cent of the Rs 900 crore
sanctioned for 2010-11 under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to preserve rain water.