Chhattisgarh ensures water availability round-the-clock for farmlands, here's how the state did it
A project, launched in the 1990s to rejuvenate water channels and river drains to augment the groundwater table, has been replicated with technological backing and with villagers’ support.
CHHATTISGARH: Chhattisgarh has achieved something near-impossible: it has ensured water is available for its thirsty farmlands throughout the year. How? A unique project, launched in the 1990s to rejuvenate water channels and river drains to augment the groundwater table has borne fruits.
“The forest department project has reduced run-off during rains, checked soil erosion and retained groundwater. It ensures year-round availability of water to our villages”, says Shyamlal Taram, a tribal resident of Urputti village in Dhamtari, 90 km from Raipur. The net irrigated area in Chhattisgarh is 31%, of which around 65% is rain-fed, as per government data.
The government selected sites with the help of Geographical Information System-based data for treatment of drainage lines and watercourses. Forest frontline employees were offered expert training on mobile application, GIS-based survey, monitoring of natural resource management and in preparing detailed project reports.
The ‘Gajra Nala’ project was successfully accomplished way back in the 90s under the supervision of then public health engineering minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh Bhupesh Baghel. After becoming Chhattisgarh CM, he decided to replicate the concept across the state in December 2019. The initiative, later cited as among best practices by the Jal Shakti Ministry, has enabled 46 villages to access water for their needs, besides preserving groundwater.
Reviving rural economy
The ‘Gajra’ idea has now been incorporated under the state’s flagship programme – the Narwa-Garwa-Guruwa-Baari. It stresses the revival of the rural economy. “The learning acquired by ‘Gajra Nala’ has now been replicated for around 36,000 canals, rivulets and streams across the landscape of the forests. We have chalked out an extensive plan on water forest agenda on rejuvenating groundwater and reviving the water resources in forested terrain,” says Rakesh Chaturvedi, state Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF).
The Narwa enrichment programme has so far revived 1,089 rivulets and small watercourses in the forest areas, including tiger reserves, national parks and the elephant corridor. Chhattisgarh has around 44% forest cover, which is among the highest in the country with respect to the total geographical area. Owing to degradation of forests and change in land-use pattern, various development activities have deteriorated the network of streams, putting an end to an unspecified number of watercourses in various forest divisions. “Water availability has a direct impact on the health of forests and their inhabitants. Forested catchments are known to provide substantial propositions of water for domestic, agricultural, industrial and ecological needs”, said Chaturvedi.
Staying the watercourse
Chhattisgarh has succeeded in finding a way out on restoring watercourses besides conservation and elevation of groundwater levels in the 31 forest divisions. “During the 2019-2021 plan, the state will construct over 25 lakh structures to facilitate groundwater augmentation in the forest territory with a budget of `370 crore from Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority,” says Forest Minister Mohammed Akbar.
Forested catchments assume significance for Chhattisgarh which have 80% of households dependent on agriculture where only 43% had arable land under cultivation, out of which 55% land has less water retention capacity. Since December 2019, over 800 streams have been perpetually maintained, covering 4.05 lakh hectares of forested area. By April, another 1,092 water channels would be attended.