Several districts in the Marathwada and North Maharashtra region have always suffered from deficient rainfall and been afflicted with frequent and severe drought. With water storage facilities being near-nil in several villages, which had received barely 50 per cent of the annual monsoon rainfall in 2018, a high-magnitude drought resulted in several villages near Pune, hitting hard the livelihood and survival of destitute people living in these areas. Quoting statistics, around 60 per cent or 85.76 lakh hectares of the total cultivable land in Maharashtra had been hit that year, affecting adversely some 82.27 lakh farmers.
When the opportunity came to do a large project in the area, the Rotary Foundation (India) explored an opportunity to work with Tata technologies and signed MoU with them. The project was implemented by Rotary Club of Pune Far East, Rotary District 3131 and implemented a significant project in one of Rotary’s major areas of focus — Water and Sanitation.
After intensive community mapping by both partners, it was found that many villages receive rainfall during the monsoon season but have no storage capacity to retain that water, resulting in scarcity of drinking water for both humans and cattle, as also for farming.
The survey conducted found that if a comprehensive water harvesting and conservation project was undertaken, it could build one-time water storage of at least 120 million litres, with good percolation multiplying the storage capacity by 1.5 to 5 times. The borewells and wells could also be recharged for a whole year and till the onset of the next monsoon.
Four villages were identified for this project, the total cost of which exceeded Rs 68 lakh, collected through a contribution of ₹22.75 lakh from Tata Technologies, RC Pune Far East, RC Springdale, RID 6110 (international partner), and supporting Rotary Clubs of Pune University and Pune Central. These are Nagnathwadi (Satara district), Pimpalgaon Lingi (Osmanabad district), Ghatghar and Tambe, both in Pune district. Four huge rainwater harvesting pits were created in these villages by excavating soil. Thanks to its cascading effect, six other neighbouring villages — also benefitted from this water conservation project with an increase in the water table. About 13,000 people in the four villages were direct beneficiaries, with additional benefit to dwellers of six other villagers.
“We are now optimistic that with sufficient water available for their crops, the farmers will have increased income and will no longer have to migrate to urban areas for their livelihood. Water availability will also help in growing multiple crops and improve the quality of life of our farmers in the coming years,” Pankaj Patel added.
What was most satisfying was that 1,120 farmers were major beneficiaries; thanks to this project which created or rejuvenated so many water bodies, these farmers now have new farming opportunities which will enhance their income.
The training session was designed and organized to bring awareness on improving groundwater level by adopting soil and water conservation method and to make farmers self-sustainable by adopting good agricultural practices. Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Narayangaon, Junnar was the knowledge partner for this project and conducted systematic training sessions on topics like Beekeeping, Mushroom Project, Dairy, Vermicomposting, Organic Output Supply etc. The training was attended by approximately 200 farmers from four villages.
Another outcome of the project is that about 500 hectares of agricultural land in these villages have benefitted by the harvesting of rainwater; the groundwater level has gone up recharging borewells in the region. The women, especially, are very happy, as the most arduous part of their daily labour — walking for miles to fetch water — is now behind them.