How 100-day work scheme is helping villagers deal climate change impact
“I used to get 15 quintals of paddy before these ponds were connected; last year I got 26 quintals of paddy,” says Jatan Lal, a Bharari village elder.Updated: Jul 29, 2019 11:19 IST
It rained for a few days in the first week of of July and since then, not a drop has moistened the parched land of Kokdakhar, a village in Chhattisgarh’s Kabirdhan district, where farmers are bracing for their crops to fail for the second year in a row.
The only resource that’s helping them tide over the crisis is a large earthen dam, 4.5m deep and 62m long, that the villagers toiled for months last summer to build. The dam, which captures the flow from ridge to valley, stores water and arrests erosion.
It has harvested enough water since last summer for people to bathe, for cattle to drink and even to irrigate some of their small maize and millet farms.
The Indian Institute of Science (IISc)’s mapping of blocks in Chhattisagrh have found Kawardha, the block of which Kodakhar is a part, to be one of the most vulnerable to rising temperatures and the vagaries of the monsoon.
It is among 103 blocks in Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Bihar where the ministry of rural development (MoRD) is piloting a project to see how the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme (MGNREGS), which guarantees 100 days of manual work to at least one member of every rural household, can be used to make villages resilient to climate change that causes changes in the monsoon patterns, more dry days and flash floods.
Tiharo Bai, who was among the 1,100 people who has built the dam, farm ponds and check dams under MGNREGS, said the assets had become life savers.
“We got some money under the 100 days’ scheme when there was no work. We also got water to survive the drought. There are only three hand pumps, everything else has run dry,” said Tiharo Bai, who belongs to the Baiga tribe that lives in the remote village devoid of employment opportunities.
Kawardha recorded a one degree temperature increase between 1984 and 2014, according to the IISc, and received only four years of normal sowing rains in the same 30-year period, indicating its vulnerability to climate change. Submersible pumps cannot be installed because the water table in the area is very low.
The average work days per household increased during climate-proofing works from 56 in 2015-16, to 79 in 2018-19.
Bharari village in Bilaspur district arrested the migration of its young people to cities after climate-proofing works of connecting a network of six large ponds was implemented in 2017. This otherwise dry region became prone to flash floods because of the construction of a power grid, which caused water logging.
Tapping water and routing it through a channel to a pond, connected to a network of five other ponds, now stretches over 10.5 ha, storing it or irrigation, domestic use and fish farming.
“I used to get 15 quintals of paddy before these ponds were connected; last year I got 26 quintals of paddy. People have stopped migrating because we are earning enough here,” said Jatan Lal, a village elder.
Jhiriya, another Baiga village in Mungeli district, has managed to utilise natural spring water by routing it to farm ponds for fish farming. Digging her own pond helped Jonuha Jonhu getting a harvest of arhar lentils and about 25 kilos of rohu fish, which she sold last year.
“There are demonstrable examples in the three project states of beneficiaries growing multiple crops and coping better with flood and/or droughts,” said Sriparna Sanyal Iyer, national team leader, Infrastructure for Climate Resilient Growth at IPE Global, an MoRD consultant implementing the project.
Despite the documented benefits, ,the average days of employment per household in 2018-19 under MGNREGA was 56 in Chhattisgarh, and the average wage rate was Rs 163.99 per day. The minimum wage rate is Rs 230 per day for agriculture. Many women complained of payments getting delayed by months.
“The person days are less than 100 because the scheme is not needed all the time. It’s only for times of distress. We plan to tie up with the environment ministry to get funds to expand the climate-proofing works under MGNREGS,” said a senior official of MoRD.
(The reporter is a recipient of the Promise of Commons Media Fellowship 2019, on the potential of MGNREGA scheme.)
First Published: Jul 29, 2019 00:07 IST