Little Rains, But Assured Gains
In 2005, only 63 villages out of 503 in the district of Mewat, Haryana, India had fresh ground water. Most of the fresh ground water was only available at the foothills of the Aravalis. In other areas, the water was mostly brackish. In all of these areas, recharging of water to the water table is very poor. In Mewat, groundwater depletion varied from 25 centimeters to 100 centimeters a year.
Semi-arid regions like Mewat are highly vulnerable to climate change. These areas experience short and intense spells of rain. In the absence of aqueduct collection and water harvesting structures, most of the rainwater runs off into streams and rivers. Very little is recharged back into the water tables where it is needed.
In 2002, Sehgal Foundation took on the challenge of trying to slow down fresh ground water depletion. Sehgal Foundation adopted the integrated water resource management approach. This approach involves instituting technical interventions such as check dams, gully plugs, recharge wells, soak pits, and roof water harvesting units. By working with the social, economic, and environmental conditions, the Foundation was able to further its water development model.
After Sehgal Foundation had success with water interventions in several villages around Mewat, it partnered with Mewat Development Agency (MDA) and Mosaic Fertilizers Ltd. to scale up the interventions. In 2007 MDA granted Sehgal Foundation with premier organization status and instructed them to take on all water resource management projects in the district. The partnerships have achieved great water success in many villages around Mewat.
The most basic approach to groundwater recharging involves collecting water run-off within fresh water zones. The run-off water is then directed to and recharged into the aquifers. This way, the run-off water can also be restricted from saline water zones and helps restrict the expansion of saline water pockets.
Sehgal Foundation has constructed two check dams in Bhond, and three in Kotla with support from MDA in order to collect run-off water and recharge it back into the ground. Another check dam was also built in the village of Santhawadi with support from Mosaic Fertilizers. Sehgal Foundation has established 9 run off harvesting structures at road culverts in Kotla and Raniyala, 4 check dams in Raniyala, 4 check dams in Ghaghas, and 1 dam in Bhond. Villagers funded the dam in Bhond. Well recharging has also been undertaken in the villages of Santhawadi, Bhond, Agon, Rangala, Pathkhori, Kotla, Ghaghas and Karheda. Till date, Sehgal Foundation has constructed 30 check dams and 17 roof-water harvesting units.
One of the check dams at Bhond collects rainwater in a catchment area of over 5 sq. kms. The structure is expected to recharge the water table and keep future depletion in check. Groundwater was previously depleting at over 1 ft. per year.
Surface Water Storage
Creation of surface water storage structures is an effective solution for saline water villages. The stored fresh water can be used for irrigation and domestic purposes. Once treated, the water can also be used for drinking.
Sehgal Foundation implemented the Integrated Watershed Development Program (IWDP) in Rangala Rajpur with financial support from MDA. The project collects rainwater in a series of five ponds. Watershed development of this kind is a critical intervention in semi-arid areas. It helps to provide water for irrigation and makes the land more productive. The Foundation constructed a 1.5 km earthen bandh four years back, prior to the onset of the monsoon. Five ponds were developed along the earthen bandh to maximize its benefits to the community.
It was estimated that the project would open up 50 acres of fallow land for cultivation and save 40 acres of land from flooding and topsoil erosion. The project also had a potential of contributing to an efficient micro irrigation system, which could provide water to up to 300 acres of land. This would further decrease the dependency on groundwater. Other interventions including Pisciculture (fish rearing), establishment of horticulture nursery, and deep-rooted tree plantations can help improve groundwater recharging and would contribute to the economic development of the village. Two ponds in Santhawadi, Jalalpur and Baroji have also been constructed with financial assistance from MDA.
Sehgal Foundation’s work in Rangala Rajpur is a model project. It can be replicated to resolve water problems and can help villages with saline ground water develop economically.
The new rainwater harvesting structures have filled with water and have brought relief to many communities. Villagers are delighted to see water in these storage structures and eagerly await the rise in groundwater that is needed to quench the thirst of the people.
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