Jal Chetna Yatra calls for United Action
“We have traveled the length and breadth of Mewat spreading the message of Water Conservation over a period of three days. This journey helped us understand the problems faced by the communities in accessing and availing water resources in the villages on a day-to-day basis in Mewat. What we achieved at the end of the yatra was a commitment of villagers in any effort that can mitigate the water scarcity in their villages. We are confident, that once the community takes charge of their water resources, problems can be solved fast and in a sustainable manner.”- Yatra team
It was symbolic to see groups of people coming together to unite in action, holding banners and shouting slogans on water through the air around us. This opposed the common belief that Mewat, Haryana, India lacks community participation in managing water resources. The number of problems facing them everyday often overwhelms the locals of Mewat, so that they seldom approach the government authorities for any solutions. This is also a result of government apathy towards this region’s water problems.
Sehgal Foundation organized the Jal Chetna Yatra to revive the relationship between water and communities and to promote water literacy and community partnership in conserving water resources in Mewat. The event was the result of Sehgal Foundation’s focus on villagers’ water problems.
Three teams came up with a number of stimulating slogans for the event. They began their journey from the three corners of Mewat days before the World Water Day. They reached 60 villages across 462 kms and taught 1.5 lac people about water problems. The groups came together in a public meeting at Nuh, district headquarters on the 22nd of March 2010. Together, they urged people to start thinking about water conservation and to be judicious in how they use water.
More than 250 people attended the event, and Magsaysay Award winner, Mr. Rajendra Singh and the Commissioner, Gurgaon Division, Mr. T K Sharma, addressed the public meeting. Mr. T K Sharma stressed that water depletion needs to become a primary issue at the government and community levels. They stressed that Panchayats (village councils) need to be integrated in water management in Mewat. A lot of steps were taken during the yatra. The public came together and formed water charters, gathered signatures for campaigns, tested village drinking water sources for biological and chemical contamination. Together they sought to prepare a strong case about water problems in front of authorities at the district hub.
The compiled District level demands and suggestions kept by the Jal Chetna Yatra were as follows:
- Mass recharging of fresh groundwater pockets to check advancement of salinity.
- Survey and status report of water bodies in Mewat and their desalting to increase storage and groundwater recharge.
- Renovation and integration of overflow mechanisms in existing and damaged RWH structures constructed by various departments/agencies.
- Introduction and promotion of NABARD’s dug well recharging scheme, as Mewat still has large number of dried/abandoned dug wells.
- Assessment and status report of existing schemes/programs on water under MOWR, MORD, MOA, and MOUD etc.
- Constitute a district level water committee for assessment of water supply system focusing on availability, accessibility and quality. The committee should have representation of PRI, civil societies and public functionaries.
- Constitution of panchayat level water user committee to manage and monitor the equitable distribution of water, source protection and its augmentation.
- Setting up of specialized institutions to assess the condition of water resources in Mewat (qualitative and quantitative) and recommend the stabilizing mechanisms.
- To sustain the momentum built by the community led call for action, Sehgal Foundation will facilitate the structures and systems within the PRIs and larger community to conserve and manage their water sources in a better way and also lobby with the district and state authorities to pave way for the translation of their demands charter into actual implementation.
The yatra was a tremendous success. Villagers from all across Mewat had the opportunity to formulate that water concerns and devise strategy to resolve them. They then received the opportunity to share this with authorities. Sehgal Foundation hopes that communities will maintain this momentum and continue striving for more water development across Mewat.
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