Are revival efforts serious?
In a state where Rs 3,200 crore has been spent on drinking water supply in the past four years, traditional water sources are fast losing their relevance.
If one ventures 130 kilometres from Jaipur towards Sikar and takes short diversions into villages alongside, they provide details of the government's claims of reviving traditional water sources.
There are villages whose pindaras (water bowls) have dried up. There are still many others that have fallen victim to encroachments, often legalised by the government.
Encraochments hinders catchments: Located at the bottom of hills, Kharkara village in Patan gram panchayat is facing water problem the first time since independence. The old pond or pindara went dry this September.
In early 1990s, there came a road hindering the flow of water from the hills into the pond. This year came the four feet deep trench along the road that finally stopped the supply of water into the pond.
"The government is least bothered about this pond even as our cattle have no other source of water," said Babulal, 55.
Near Patan village was a huge johad (pond) close to the road. Villagers said that the electricity board had made some houses on the one side and the water flow from the other side was blocked by some private houses. The johad is in ruins now.
In Dokan village in Neem ka Thana tehsil was huge pond, about 150 metres wide and 100 metres long. Some animals were sucking the few litres of dirty water left in a pit. As per the villagers' account, from 1995 onwards, the government started issuing pattas (lease deeds) for the land in catchment area. By 1998, constructions had choked all sides of the johad.
According to Sikar Zila Parishad member Kailash Meena, "All these johads and other traditional structures served the people's needs until they became a victim of neglect or encroachments. The government's claims about the revival of these structures are yet to be a reality on the ground."
Professor Vijay Shankar Vyas, an eminent economist and advisor to the government on water policies, said encroachments were one of the main reasons for the destruction of traditional water sources.
"Earlier, traditional tanks met all water requirements in Bikaner. But due to years of encroachments, water flow to them was choked. All of these tanks are ruined now," said Vyas, who is associated with a Bikaner-based NGO.
In the catchment area of the Ramgarh Dam in Jaipur, several bastis have been developed in the past few years. But 'poor rainfall' continues to be the villain for the depleting water storage in the dam.
Policy failure: About 17,000 wells and baoris were revived at the cost of Rs 41 crore under the rejuvenation of community traditional water source programme till December 2, 2002, according to Public Health and Engineering Department (PHED).
Under this programme, started in 2000, such baoris and wells are rejuvenated, which were neglected due to non-use. Three-fourths of the expenditure in this project is made available by the National Drinking Water Mission of the government of India under Accelerated Rural Water Supply Project.
But there are no records to show how many of these 'revived' wells and baoris are meeting water requirements in villages.
There were none in the 130 km stretch, at least.
D K Singh