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How dry Jalaun made it out of water scarcity

Every year, during summers lakhs of people of Bundelkhand region, mostly farmers, are forced to migrate to nearby cities in search of work. The biggest contributor to this phenomenon is a severe drop in water levels observed in the region. Forget farming, the drop in water level leads to shortage of potable water for people and their cattle.

lucknow Updated: Feb 27, 2019 12:44 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Jalaun,Water scarcity,Uttar Pradesh
Jalaun, one of the districts in the region experienced this wrath till last year. But things are changing now. Located on the border of Madhya Pradesh, the district has turned into a pioneer in water conservation.(Representative image)

Every year, during summers lakhs of people of Bundelkhand region, mostly farmers, are forced to migrate to nearby cities in search of work. The biggest contributor to this phenomenon is a severe drop in water levels observed in the region. Forget farming, the drop in water level leads to shortage of potable water for people and their cattle.

Jalaun, one of the districts in the region experienced this wrath till last year. But things are changing now. Located on the border of Madhya Pradesh, the district has turned into a pioneer in water conservation. So much so that the district was awarded best district, in ground water conservation category, by the National Water Award today at New Delhi by Ministry of Water Conservation.

Highlights
  • Irrigation potential increased from 1,930 hectare to 3,900, a 102% increase in irrigation potential.
  • Number of effective check dams went up to 256 from about 108 last year.
  • Water recharge capacity of these structures increased from 99,495.18 cu. m. to 3,42,331.02 cu. m. around 243% increase from last year.
  • Surface water storage capacity increased and quadrupled form 4,58,549 cu.m to 18,78,275.25 cu. m. It is an increase of 14,19,726 cu.m., an increase of 409% from last year .
  • Silt removal was done.
  • The programme provided employment with creation of 1,46,880 man days.
  • An estimated 10,000 farmers and families benefited directly or indirectly by surface water storage

The change was brought about by implementing some structural changes and changing their perception towards water.

“We want to make people realise that water is not just a natural resource, it is, in fact, a capital linked closely to their prosperity,” said Jalaun district magistrate Manan Akhtar, who headed the project aimed at conserving rain water and replenishing the underground water.

According to experts, what makes the water condition worse in Bundelkhand is the lack of rainfall and the hard topography that makes it difficult for the water to seep in. Durgesh Shekhawat, a water conservationist said, “Bundelkhand region is located on a plateau. So a very small percentage of the rain water that falls in the area actually recharges the underground water. The rest just flows out.” The shortage of water renders agricultural activities useless forcing farmers into the cycle of misery.

The district magistrate and his team focused on this aspect of the problem and decided to address it. Interestingly, they relied on the age-old technique of making check dams to solve this.

A check dam is a small barrier constructed on the known route of water that prevents water run-off. However, building a check dam is a capital-intensive exercise.

“Instead of making a new check dam, we decided to fix the existing ones. We conducted a survey to identify the existing check dams that require minor maintenance and decided to fix them in the first phase,” said the officer.

The programme started in December 2017 two months after Akhtar took charge as the DM of the district and continued till June 2018. In these months the administration managed under Bhujal Kosh Sanchay (BKS) project of the central government. Close to 150 check dams were maintained in the duration.

The maintenance was done using the funds from gram panchayat and other district level bodies. To keep a check on the expenditure, villagers were deployed under the Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. “An estimated 1,46,880 man days were created that provided employment to locals, reducing migration,” Akhtar said.

The fruits of the exercise were realised in the last monsoon when these check dams held rain water from running off, turning the district into a water reservoir.

“A 102% increase in irrigation potential from 1,930 hectare to 3,900 hectare was observed following the monsoon. The surface water capacity increased to over 409% and the ground water took a jump of 243%,” claimed the officer. These changes improved the water potential of the district and jettisoned it out of the dark zone.

“We are expecting a further increase in the project this year so that people in Jalaun get sufficient water round the year. This will not just reduce migration and improve employment, the project will reduce the burden from our farmers,” said the officer.

First Published: Feb 27, 2019 12:44 IST