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JBGVS watershed work turns 30 villages “tanker free” in Aurangabad district Increased surface storage capacity has led to rising groundwater level, improved agriculture

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Pune/Aurangabad:  With the summer at its peak and water bodies fast depleting across the Deccan, persistent efforts by Jankidevi Bajaj Gram Vikas Sanstha (JBGVS) in 2016 in the drought prone areas of Aurangabad, in line with Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan of Government of Maharashtra, are yielding results. This year, 30 villages including Harshi Khurd, Harshi Budruk, Thergaon, Dadegaon Khurd, Dadegaon Budruk, Nandar, Limbgaon, Kaundar, Karhol, Davarwadi, Darakwadi, Kolghar and Chaurhyahattar Jalgaon; have been freed from tanker dependency as of today. JBGVS has worked in these villages, either directly or by funding another NGO – AFARM.

A check dam restored by JBGVS

Deepening and widening of nullahs and beyond
JBGVS and its team have been toiling in 51 dusty villages of the district throughout last year (42 before monsoon of 2016) and continue till date. It has achieved the humungous task of widening and deepening streams/nullahs over 55 km at sites upstream of existing cement nullah bunds (CNBs). This has been done across Aurangabad, Paithan, Vaijapur, Gangapur and Fulambri talukas, as a part of Bajaj group CSR projects. Desilting of five percolation tanks has been completed. Besides, 27 new CNBs and 15 Gabion structures were constructed. With all this work, 25,000 TCM of surface water storage capacity has been created. Soil and water conservation trainings were also conducted.

Rising groundwater – vanishing tankers
The increased storage capacity on the surface led to better percolation of water during the good monsoon of 2016, with the result that all the nullahs deepened before monsoon were filled with water 2-3 times. Randhir Patil, Project Manager, JBGVS, informs, “Due to the watershed work, aquifers were recharged. For instance, while digging in Harshi even in March 2017, water accumulated up to a two feet level. Similar digging in Karhol led to water seeping up to a 4-5 feet level, while Mharola also has some water left even now in the deepened nullahs.” In the one km periphery of the deepened nullahs, wells and bore wells that had earlier dried up have now got rejuvenated and water level has increased by 3-7 metres. Drinking water problem for the dry season has been solved. At present, there is no need for tankers in the above 30 villages. Till 2015, tankers were required from September onwards.

Improved agriculture and other benefits
In many cases, multiple crops are being taken throughout the year with watering possible up to 3-4 times. Naturally, agriculture is improving. For instance, cotton yield, which had dipped to 3-4 quintals per acre, is expected to go up to 7-8 quintals. Moreover, the silt dug up from nullahs was used in restoring fertility of 144 hectares of farmland, building 20 km of temporary farm roads and protective bunds around 27 hectares of farmland and levelling 36 hectares of other land. Team spirit and better awareness about water conservation among villagers, revival of horticulture, water for domestic animals and women empowerment through reduced drudgery (no need to bring water from far) are the other tangible benefits.

Commenting on the development, C P Tripathi, Chairman, JBGVS, said “Taking inspiration from the age old practice of enabling retention and percolation of as much water as possible at the very place where it falls as rain, JBGVS has successfully transformed the water situation in many villages. We are happy to be a part of the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan of the government and we also congratulate the villagers for all the cooperation extended by them. We look forward to watershed work on a larger scale with inputs from all stakeholders.”

Future plans
After the success of 2016, JBGVS plans to scale up its watershed conservation work in a big way. Starting this year, watershed work is scheduled to be undertaken over 65,000 hectares across 108 villages in the coming four years in the drought prone Marathwada region. Out of the 65,000 hectares, work on 21,000 hectares will be undertaken directly by JBGVS and the remaining 44,000 hectares will be completed by outsourcing to other NGOs with close monitoring by JBGVS. Initially, work in the first five villages is expected to commence immediately.

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