About 18 years back Saurashtra region of Gujarat too witnessed the severe drought that about a dozen states are today facing. The ground water level receded to 700 metres in 1998. But thanks to the efforts of a merely 12th passed Mansukhbhai Suvagiya, the water level has now revived to about 40 feet. By devising the cheapest model of building check dams and lakes, he has so far built 3,000 check dams and lakes in 300 villages.
The journey of Jalyoddha Mansukhbhai began from Jamka Village under Mendarda Taluka of Junagarh district where about 15 years ago he mobilised villagers to construct 55 check dams without seeking any help from government. All those dams are functional even today. ‘Check Dam Wado Bhai’ as Shri Suvagiya is popularly known in Gujarat is credited with giving the cheapest model of building check dam and lakes in the country.
After the terrible draught that hit Gujarat from 1985 to 1998, a thought occurred to his mind that each Village should have five to fifty check dams built on streams and dig lakes on the outskirts. Depressed over the government response, he worked out a five point programme. He held public meetings for creating awareness about water harvesting and creating water reserves. Then he selected about 2,000 places in 500 villages to build check dams. In those days the government check dams’ schemes costed from Rs 2 to 10 lakh, and making 5 to 50 check dams in a village was unaffordable. But Shri Suvagiya created a new sustainable design from RCC. He held community gatherings and also initiated community funds by putting a substantial amount as starting fund. This motivated farmers, cattle breeders, teachers and even workers to give their share in the village community fund. He himself went to 30 villages and worked on the dam sites digging from a day to even 90 days, in spare time at night also. This is how in five years 10 lakh man days were spent in water harvesting through check dams and lakes.
At Jamka Village the people created history by spending 20,000 man days through self-help to build 51 check dams and two large lakes. Without government help and in a marginal amount only Jamka Village eradicated water scarcity. Shri Suvagiya then replicated this model in many other districts of the State. In order to create public awareness, a Water Revolution Day was celebrated in Jamka Village in 1999. More than 50,000 people gathered at this nation’s first and largest public gathering to revolutionise water conservation effort. State CM along with his Cabinet colleagues attended that event.
The result of all these efforts is that the dried rivulets again got water. In Khijadia village under Amreli District the villagers desilted a river carrying lot of silt and 35 wells were recharged. Mansukhbhai also worked on five alternative designs of RCC check dams in Pransla Vadekhan under Rajkot District. He created the most economical, simple and eco-friendly designs, which have been recognised as a sustainable solution to water problems in the third world.
“The cheapest and fastest method to fight against drought is building check dams in every village. Big dams cannot be built everywhere and they cost huge amount also. Therefore, check dams are the cheapest and lasting solution. All State govts should do it involving people of their respective states,” says Shri Suvagia.