Sustainable Water Resources Development programme in drought affected areas of Maharashtra

A. Background:

Water is Enabler for equitable and sustainable socio-economic development. Improved access to agricultural water contributes to improved food security, economic growth, and reduction of poverty. Unfortunately, several parts of Maharashtra have been facing water scarcity since last few years. Many villages from Marathwada region received much less rainfall than the average leading to further lowering of ground water levels, much lower than a decade ago leading to severe drinking water scarcity. Coupled with failure of the monsoon, the hydrogeological characteristics and widespread over exploitation of groundwater resources without replenishing it has also contributed significantly to water scarcity. The water conservation structures especially on the streams have become defunct due to lack of maintenance while majority of streams were full of silt.

The increase in the frequency of droughts in the recent decade has aggravated its impacts on agricultural production. The result being, many farmers relying on other forms of livelihood are migrating to cities for employment. The repeated crop failures and surmounting debts is making farming unsustainable. Unable to pay these debts, farmers, unfortunately, resort to committing extreme steps such as suicides. The small and marginal farmers, whose main source of livelihood was farming, were economically devastated. There was an immediate need for initiating a sustainable solution to address this problem of water shortages.

Therefore, to address these important socio-economic issues, in the year 2013, Praj initiated the ‘Sustainable Water Resources Development’ initiative in severely drought affected village Balamtakali, in Shevgaon taluka of Ahmednagar district. The project was implemented in partnership with NGO and participation of the villagers.

The outcome of the interventions was highly encouraging. The village which was getting drinking water every year by tankers from December onwards since last 4-5 years has drinking water available throughout the year, today.
In addition, the decentralised storage of water has enhanced ground water levels and farmers have enough water for their crops and livestock. This has helped in enhancing productivity of agricultural crops and earn additional off-farm income from livestock.

Due to encouraging socio- economic outcomes of this project, Praj decided to undertake this initiative in more villages and so far we have covered 37 villages spread across 8 talukas of Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Jalna and Pune district in association with NGO’s namely Janakalyan Samiti, Ahmednagar, Savitribai Phule Ekatma Samaj Mandal, Aurangabad and Gram Gaurav Pratishthan, Pune.

List of villages under ‘Sustainable Water Resources Development Programme’

  District Taluka Name of the Village
1 Ahmednagar Shevgaon Balamtakali, Kharadgaon, Vadule Katewadi, Sonoshi &Shirapur.
Jamkhed Fakarabad
Shrigonda   Mandavgan
Pathardi Eknathwadi, Mohoj Deovde, Bhutetakli, Koradgaon, Waghdara, Manik Daundi, Aurangpur, Ranjani, Harihareshwar, Malewadi,
Shekte and Handalwadi.
2 Jalna Badnapur: Matrewadi, Padali, Najik Pangari, Dhoksal, Ujjainpuri, Hiwara, Walha & DevPimpalgaon, Dhamangaon, Chikhali, Butegaon, Wanjarwadi & Kumbhari
3 Aurangabad Paithan Antarwali Khandi
4 Pune Purandar Kolvihire
    Velhe Ambed & Khamgaon

B. Process of initiating project:

B 1. Alignment of stakeholders:

Project was initiated by conducting series of meeting with all stakeholders such as villagers, NGOs, local leaders etc. to on-board their suggestions and bring consensus. Participatory approach for water resources development and build self-reliance instead of depending only on government assistance was underlying principal of these projects.

The opinion leaders from the village were taken to nearby villages where such interventions of water resources development had shown visible results. These interactions with the farmers from such villages were conducive in convincing the aspirants to arrive at positive
decision. They all committed to contribute at least 20-25% of project cost upfront in addition to providing help in planning, execution and monitoring of project activity.

The CSR officials of Praj and the NGO staff were involved right from conceptualizing the project all the way till the targeted results were realized. Various aspects of project across the life cycle were closely monitored by representatives of NGO, Praj CSR team with active participation of local youth. This ensured credibility and helped in effectively tracking of project progress.

Mr. Pramod Chaudhari, Executive Chairman, Praj Industries Ltd. during ‘Bhumi Poojan’ Ceremony at Kharadgaon, District Ahmednagar.

B 2. Project Intervention

Based on the suggestions of Hydro-Geologists following activities were initiated with people’s participation (Physical as well as financial).

  • The existing check dam (water impounding structure) on the stream was repaired
  • The stream was widened and deepened by removing the silt

The excavated top soil (silt) was deposited on agricultural land to enhance the soil fertility while the soft rock (Murum) was used to strengthening internal village roads.

Though the village identification and creating consensus of villagers was initiated in month of November, the actual execution started from March onwards in the following year. Depending on the type of intervention, it took about 2-3 months to complete the work.

C. Output

Use of silt to enhance productivity

Total silt and murum excavated from these projects in 37 villages was 17.60 lakh cubic meters or 3.85 lakh truckloads. The top silt excavated from the stream was transported by farmers to their own field which has certainly benefited them in enhancing productivity of crops.

The silt was also used by some farmers for spreading it on marginal lands which were not cultivated earlier. Due to spreading the silt additional area of 380 acres has come under cultivation.

The lower layer excavated from the stream was murum was used for creating 40 kilometres of internal village roads making it approachable during all seasons.

D. Outcomes

1. People’s Participation

Active Participation of people was single most important aspect of success of the project. The participation was not only monitory, to the extent of 20-30% of total estimated project cost, but was also in form of day-to-day monitoring during implementation and resolving of disputes.

2. Improved Groundwater table due to Recharge:

Repairs of the check dams and widening and deepening of the streams has resulted in increasing rainwater holding capacity of the stream leading to enhanced groundwater recharge. Estimated quantity of rainwater stored or seeped in the ground is 8800 million litres equivalent to 8.80 lakh water tankers (includes surface as well as ground water).

3. Rejuvenation of wells:

The stored water seeped in ground and helped in recharging the ground water levels. 880 Open wells and 600 Bore wells were recharged leading to year round access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. Today these villages are no more dependent on water tankers.

Recharged & Rejuvenated Open wells and Bore wells

4. Protective irrigation to agricultural crops:

Farmers are able to provide protective irrigation to almost 12000 acres with this enhanced water resource. Many farmers have installed micro irrigation systems like drip and sprinkler for their crops thereby conserving available water.

Increase area under Protective irrigation: 12000 acres

5. Employment generation and reduced out-migration:

Availability of protective irrigation and change in cropping pattern has resulted in providing employment to landless labour on agricultural fields almost for two full seasons. This has radically reduced out migration.

6. Increased Crop productivity:

Climate change has accompanied with increasing weather uncertainties. The distribution of rainfall over time and space has become unpredictable with extended dry spells and short duration heavy rainfall. Protective irrigation to Kharip crops during the long dry spell of monsoon has enhanced the productivity of crops as well as income of the farmers. Due to availability of sufficient water in wells, farmers were able to cultivate Rabbi crops also, unlike in the past. Farmers have grown Wheat which was never grown earlier. The productivity of crops like cotton, corn, Jowar and Wheat has increased by 50 to 80%.

Similarly, area under horticultural crops such as Pomegranate, Sweet lime, Grapes has increased by 30%. Thus the project has resulted in enhancing crop intensity, pattern and diversity leading to Marketable surplus.

7. Improved livestock productivity:

The quality and quantity of fodder has improved considerably as a result of availability of water since last two years. This in turn has resulted in increase in livestock population and also enhanced milk yield.

8. Investment by various stakeholders in 37 projects of Water resources Development:

Thus, Praj CSR initiative of ‘Sustainable Water Resources Development’ is addressing many of the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs). This initiative has strengthened the participation of local communities in improving water management. As a result, villages now

have safe & affordable drinking water and improved access to agricultural water. This has contributed to improved food security, economic growth, and reduction of poverty.