Mukimpur is a small village, with a population of 920 people in Jewar block of Gautam Buddh Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh. It was a usual morning for Ramu Mal Kaka (age 55 years), who was on his way home from his ritual morning walk, again cursing his fellow villagers for ruining the village pond by dumping human, domestic, plastic and other wastes in it for years.
Being a responsible elder, he was concerned, as the village was already in alert zone for predicted water crisis in near future. The 1.227 hectare village pond was almost dead, had gone vicious and village was losing its natural water security too because of ignorance, neglect and encroachments of the villagers.
He says, “During my childhood, this was our favorite place to be at. Men, women, children all used this place for playing, chatting, and recreational activities. It also was full of diversed flora-fauna alongside; also surprise visits by migratory birds during their season were sight to behold. Look at this now. Who shall change it now! Are you guys here to give my childhood back?” He asked us with utmost optimism.
For hundreds of years, water bodies, both big and small, has served people and cattle alike in villages Jewar block of Uttar Pradesh. But decline in agriculture and allied activities & sudden urbanization in recent past had made people to neglect available natural water resources unintentionally, encroached illegally, making them dumping yards.
This led to acute crisis of water as the water bodies were going dry and poisonous. The situation was aggravating as even the underground water available through hand pumps, wells or boring was high with pollutants or harmful substances, deteriorating both the quantity and quality of water. Farmers in these villages were worst affected as they were mostly dependent on rain-fed farming and animal husbandry. Farmers had long struggle as the water made available to them was coming at huge cost.
HCL Foundation initiated the ‘Harit’ initiative to address the global issue of Water and Eco-culture conservation at a local level through rejuvenation of village ponds through expert PIA, AROH Foundation. Under the course of strategic actions, 14 ponds were identified, Pond Profiling was done, Encroachments were demolished, Soil and Water testing and Euphorbia removal were done.
After the preparatory work, Inlet and Outlet passage for water was constructed that could ensure adequate water level in the pond. The overflow from the ponds was designed to flow into the irrigation channel which irrigates fields in and around the village. Canals and Rain water was used for recharging the water within the ponds. As an attempt to create a complete eco-friendly cycle, Euphorbia removed from the pond was also reused as manure while composting it in the compost pits constructed under the intervention. Later face lifting of the pond was also done through fencing and adornments around the circumference of the pond.
As Ramu Mal Kaka had pre – warned, when AROH Foundation initiated the work, the biggest challenge was coming from villagers, who were in practice of dumping trash, fossils and deads into the pond. Team Harit made a concerted plan to create a cohesion with local bodies, community mobilization as an important component for success and sustainability of the mission.
People were awakened towards the fact that the village ponds were not only a source of standing water but also an important source of groundwater recharging, drought proofing and climate resilience. Extensive awareness, threats of legal action and community and administration participation were taken up as lever for change during the process.
Children from schools were trained, awakened and established as “Ambassadors of Change” and the words of wisdom towards water conservation were floated around the community through word of mouth strategy through children. Many elderlies inspired by Ramu Mal kaka also joined in the mission and voluntarily are now taking care of the new asset of the village.
This massive drive to increase water footprints and water augmentation, which was aligned to Jal Shakti Abhiyan has rejuvenated 6.44 Hectare/15 acres of Pond for increasing recharge for around 193230000 cubic mtrs of ground waters. The newly rejuvenated ponds have proven to be multi – serving for the people. Not has this initiative countered water crisis in the region, shall create a better climate level in the surroundings but has also given place of play, gatherings and chit chatting for villagers.
Exhilarated Ramu Mal Kaka says, “I feel I am reliving my childhood again. Scenario has changed, winds are blowing positively and now the village pond is being taken care of like a personal asset by everyone. From being a dumping yard of the village, the pond has turned into hangout place for us again. Policy, People and Participation are bringing in new change.”
HCL Foundation, under the HARIT drives promotes the thought that revival of existing water bodies, revamping water conserving structures can be seen as the most economic, effective and fast measure in the water conservation drives. A thoughtful alliance of people, resources, systems and policy makers can come together in mission mode to mitigate the water crisis. We as a planet are already blessed with abundance on water with us. Just forethought and small efforts can help us mitigate water crisis at various levels and can create ripple effect towards the mission of water conservation. We should remember that now is the time and every bit shall count.