The people of drought-hit Maharashtra are realising the fruits of the collective efforts that they have made through the Jalyukta Shivar scheme for water conservation. This participatory movement can be a role model for other states
Maharashtra has been in the news for several wrong reasons—severe draught, suicide by farmers, irrigation scam, etc. When the people struggled for every drop of water, the State under Congress-NCP regime witnessed the multi-crore rupees irrigation scam. It was basically due to such scams that the money, which should have been spent for repairing and desilting the dams, was not spent and the drought assumed the ugly form forcing the farmers to ending their life. The drought was very severe in Marathwada region, where even the drinking water was supplied through tankers in rural areas. Resultantly, during 2014 -15, the ground water level in nearly 188 Talukas was depleted by more than 2 meters and there was water scarcity declared in more than 23,000 villages in the State.
This year, a total of 12 districts of the State faced the severest kind of drought. About 20,000 villages were declared drought affected. 10,000 of them were in Marathwada. Apart from it, one district of Vidarbha and four districts of Western Maharashtra were also severely affected. The Southern Marathwada region normally records very low rainfall i.e. below 50% of the average rainfall. But for the last three years, it has been recording the lowest rainfall i.e. below 40% of the usual rainfall. Injudicious use of water by local people and also by farmers made the problem more complex. Latur, Beed and Usmanabad districts in Southern Marathwada were severely affected. Both the barrages and the only dam of the region totally dried. All water bodies including the rivers and ponds dried up. Drinking water was somehow arranged from other areas. Not only the government, but the people too struggled hard for every drop of water.
Crux of the Movement
The 'Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan' mainly envisages, arresting rain water within the village boundaries, increasing ground water level, creation of decentralised water bodies, rejuvenation of the old water storage structures, creation of new water bodies, restoring the storage capacity, increasing area under protective irrigation by efficient water use, implementation of Ground Water Act, de-silting of structures with people participation, creation of water awareness, publicity and sensitisation among the people, peoples participation in water budgeting. The programme aims at convergence of various programmes undertaken by Central/ State/ DPDC different Departments. An ambitious target of making 5,000 villages scarcity free in every year has been set. The programme aims at convergence of various programmes undertaken by different departments and agencies. An ambitious target of making 5,000 villages scarcity free in every For year 2015-16, 6202 drought affected villages where selected in the Abhiyan. State Government of Maharashtra has provided special fund of Rs.2000 cr., for Gap Funding of Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan. Till last month, works costing Rs. 364 crore works have been completed with people contributions/participation. Till end of June, 6,88,596 TCM water storage potential is created through people’s participation.
With the change of guard in the State in 2014, the new BJP-Shiv Sena regime led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis initiated an ambitious project, Jalyukta Shivar, on December 5, 2014 to combat the drought. The prime objective of the Scheme was to repair and desilt the dams as well as the river beds in rural areas. About 5,000 drought affected villages were selected under the scheme and the entire project was divided into two phases. The work under first phase is almost over. In order to ensure quality and transparency in work, the state government issued clear guidelines and created a full proof mechanism. The evaluation of the work was done both at the beginning and at end of the project. Photos of both stages are properly taken for transparency and are displayed at the website for public view.
Since the genuine involvement of the public is must for success of any government scheme, the government involved the local Gram Panchayats in implementation of the scheme. The action plan was approved only after the consent of the Gram Sabha. After completion of the work, the payment to the contractors was made only after satisfactory response from the villagers. Sufficient care is taken to ensure quality of the work done by hiring an engineer on ad hoc basis for the project worth Rs 25 lakh and above.
The positive results of the Jalyukta Shivar project have started surfacing with the arrival of the monsoon. The way the project has received public participation, it has emerged as a mass movement of water conservation. The scheme has been started by the government, but the involvement of the public made it public project displaying the unique example of public-government participation.
Manjra Project – Latur
The impact of the project is now visible on the ground. There is a Vashira River in Itakur village under Kalamb tehsil of Usmanabad district of the state. The River was almost died. The Jankalyan Samiti discussed the issue of revival of the river with the villagers. After the survey, a proposal to desilt the river up to 2 km was prepared. The work began with the involvement of the local people, and finally the Vashira River has now successfully been revived.
The experiment of reviving the 18 km long Manjra River in Latur with active public contribution has emerged as a highly acclaimed model in the state. It is an example, which shows how sweet is the result when public and government work in tandem. The people of Latur collected more than five crore rupees for the project, which was estimated to cost around Rs 7.58 lakh. Interestingly, the government agencies had estimated the cost of the project to Rs 80 crore, about ten times more. One more interesting fact is that majority of the social, cultural, religious, educational, market organisations as well as the political leaders belonging to different political parties including the Congress and Samajwadis joined hands with the RSS swayamsevaks. Veteran RSS leader and founder of Latur Vivekananda Hospital Dr Ashok Rao Kukade was unanimously appointed chairman of the Samiti to execute the desilting project.
Prominent among those who are part of the Samiti include Shri Tryambakdas Zanvar, who has been very close to former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh and is a former Congress district president, veteran Samajwadi leader Shri Manohar Gomare, private sugar factory owner and renowned personality of cooperative sector Shri BB Thombre, etc. The work began on Varsh Pratipada day i.e. April 8, 2015. Following call from the Samiti for contribution, on first day itself Rs two crore were announced by various people as contribution. RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat visited the project and appreciated the initiative. Chief Secretary of the state Shri Swadhin Kshatriya, Minister Sushri Pankaja Munde, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Devgiri Prant Sanghachalak Shri Dada Pawar, Paschim Kshetra Sah Kshetra Pracharak Shri Vijayrao Puranik, RSS Akhil Bharatiya Sewa Pramukh Shri Suhasrao Hiremath, RSS Jankalyan Samiti Maharashtra organising secretary Shri Sharad Khadilkar, Jalpurush Rajendra Singh and many other personalities also visited the site and appreciated the efforts of the people.
Film star Shri Reteish Deshmukh, son of former Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh who belongs to Latur city, also contributed Rs 25 lakh. He also agreed to be the brand ambassador of the initiative. His elder brother Shri Amit Deshmukh, who is MLA, also announced Rs 75 lakh for it. Despite being a Congress leader he praised the RSS leader Dr Ashokrao Kukade for his honesty, dedication and commitment to the task despite growing age.
Sangrampur – Buldhana District
Sangrampur tehsil of Buldhana district in Western Vidarbha was another area of Maharashtra, where droughts and water supply through tankers was a regular feature. When Sangrampur was selected in the first phase of Jalyukta Shivar movement the focus was on water conservation and small scale irrigation. With the help of survey teams, proper locations were identified for the gabion dams and water trench. Small water bodies and drainage systems were also cleared. With the contribution of people, 28 lakh 16 thousand rupees were spent on the conservation projects in the Ladnapur area of the tehsil. It is just a starting of the monsoon and people have started feeling the change. Wells are flowing, traditional water bodies are activated and possibility of sustainable irrigation facilities is seen on the ground.
In the first phase itself, 26 villages were identified as drought prone in this tehsil. Out of 507 works 391 initiatives are completed with public participation. The cases of Dhotane and Pardhade are of special significance here. At Dhotane people contributed 9.82 lakh for the conservation projects through which 910 metre water channel was cleared creating the possibility of more than 7000 TMC water percolation. Similar initiative was taken as Pardhade to enlarge the runnel which has enhanced the water conservation capacity upto 15.65 thousand Cubic Metre. The best part is, government has contributed just 2 lac ruppes in this project while local people contributed above 8 lakh rupees. Common people are already experiencing the tanker free villages while farmers are hoping for sustainable irrigation.
Chalisgaon – Jalgaon District
Patana Devi area of Chalisgaon district experienced a dramatic change even before the end of summer. Generally, during the period of drought in the region, people worshipped overflowing water bodies, which they themselves revived. There was a traditional natural dam. Besides that there were 27 cement channels. People cleared the water channels. With the help of forest department water flows were enlarged. A 25X700 metre dam with 5 mtr depth was created. It was connected with the 5 water channels from the hills. After first monsoon itself 140 lakh ltr water is conserved which is making villagers proud for their hard work.
These are not isolated success stories. In the drought prone districts of Beed, Latur, Nanded, Amravati, Akola, Buldhana, and Nagpur, Officials are unveiling images and tales of pre-monsoon showers bringing to life dead and dry canals, farm ponds, village wells and barrages. At Savargaon, a non-descript village in drought-hit Parbhani, pre-monsoon showers have given farmers a reason to rejoice, with the Jalyukta Shivar project flowing with water.
The Chief Minister, who has himself taken the lead in sharing images of ‘Jalyukta Shivar’ posted from rural villages by farmers, NGOs and district officials emphasised, “If pre-monsoon rain of 7.33 mm can bring back life to dry canals, good monsoons will bring better harvest next season as we have created adequate structures.” Sources in the Ministry of Water conservation revealed, “In the first phase, we completed 1,69,424 Jalyukta Shivar works across 6,202 villages. The total expenditure was Rs 2,053 crore.” There was enthusiastic public participation in the 4,930 projects, which had an investment of Rs 274 crore. Shri Fadnavis has repeatedly stressed, “The success of Jalyukta Shivar is people’s participation. It has turned into a water movement. The villagers are volunteering to participate in projects not only lending physical labour but also generously contributing for the project.” Rural Development Minister Pankaja Mude is personally monitoring the progress of works under the movement.
The key to success of this project is a constructive partnership between local people, NGOs and government agencies. Government initiative has just facilitated the revival of traditional knowledge and skills of the locals in water conservation. People have also responded positively. The participation of celebrities like Nana Patekar, Ritesh Deshmukh and spiritual Gurus like Sri Sri Ravishankar has injected new enthusiasm for the drought sicken people. This is just a starting. If participatory approach is sustained with right intention, the movement can be a role model for many other initiatives all over the country.