RAJASTHAN: People in a cluster of 13 villages in the parched Bundi district of Rajasthan have achieved a remarkable feat. They have built a large check dam which over 2,000 feet in length and 30 feet in height. They have used their own resources and completed the task less than a month to recharge their groundwater levels.
The villagers hope they would be able to preserve rainwater over an expanse of 350 bighas, which will also help in gradually raising the groundwater level. That they did not depend on monetary, technical or other support from the government, makes them proud of this achievement.
For several years, villagers in Bamanwas Gram Panchayat, about 70 km from the district headquarters in Bundi, had been reeling under severe shortage of drinking and irrigation water. This time, the villagers not only volunteered for free labour but also invested `46 lakh that was required to create the dam. A part of the fund came from the villagers’ contribution to building a temple. About two dozen farmers played a key role in constructing the dam. Satya Narayan Bhatia (28), a member of the team, said: “The groundwater had gone as deep as 800 feet. All borewell or tubewell owners had dug up beyond all limits.”
Then they heard about a dam made in a stream for maintaining and regulating irrigation that had been created in the nearby village of Lalganj. “People there told us how the check dam resolved their water problems. That prompted us to try rainwater harvesting in our villages. We decided to build a check dam,” says Bhatia.
The villagers approached the local MLA for help, but he was unable to do anything. “We went to the administration, but no one paid attention,” claims Bhatia. The villagers then decided to do it themselves. There were obstacles. They didn’t have money and it was difficult to make farmers, whose lands fell in the dam’s catchment areas, agree to the plans. But the people of these 13 villages were determined. Village heads met thrice and finally, they decided to build the dam, collectively.
Hiralal Gurjar, a villager, says they collected Rs 12 lakh to make a temple in the village. The farmers then sold their mustard straw and put together Rs 15 lakh. They also collected Rs 19 lakh more through contributions. “So in all, Rs 46 lakh were pooled in,” says Gurjar.
“At stake was our lives,” said local activist Mukesh Nagar. That was the reason no one bothered about the loss of their land. Gurjar had 60 bighas inside the catchment area. “We did not have an option. Villagers had to walk at least 4 kms to fetch water. The dam gives us hope that for months and years from now, there would be enough underground water, which would help us bring prosperity to our villages.” It had to be completed before monsoon. Six JCBs and 46 tractors worked day and night. Villagers toiled ignoring scorching heat. Finally, they did it. Now begins the wait for rain.
If they don’t help, you help yourself
Villagers say they had approached the local MLA. He was unable to do anything. They decided it had to be done without help from anywhere else. Committed to the cause, some of them forsook land which fell in the catchment area of the dam.