By Ritu Chhabria
Mother Nature has gifted us with some precious resources and water is one of them. Clean and pure drinking water is a very basic element for our existence. However, growing population and increased pollution, exploitation and reckless use of water bodies has posed a serious threat of scarcity of water.
One-third of Maharashtra’s population, faces shortage of drinking water. It is estimated that by 2030, 70% of the land available for cultivation will continue to be rain-fed; and it is now widely accepted that de-centralised interventions in water management is a key factor in order to satisfy the present and future water demand; especially in the rain-fed areas.
Since India’s independence, government and non-government bodies have tried to address this issue. Most of their approaches have been relevant, innovative, original and dynamic. Government and non-government agencies have cooperated and complemented each other’s work. Yet, scarcity of water and problems related to water distribution appear to be ubiquitous. It is therefore necessary to increase the efficacy of such interventions.
In Maharashtra, dedicated NGOs and committed individuals have demonstrated path-finding experiments in Watershed Development (WSD) and in decentralised water management. In order to address severe water scarcity in Maharashtra, Finolex Industries Limited and its CSR arm Mukul Madhav Foundation (MMF) initiated their work in water conservation. Since 2008, the Foundation has implemented several water schemes across the rural parts of the state, enriching the lives of thousands of villagers. The type of assistance includes digging new wells, reviving old wells, installing electric pumps, and supplying water through tankers to villages, setting up water filtration units, cleaning and creating existing Cement Nala Bunds (CNB) and water tanks. The Foundation has also installed water harvesting kits across these regions.
The Foundation identifies projects followed by thorough verification of proposals with physical site-visits, expert opinions and appropriate permission from government authorities.
MMF along with its corporate partners, always keeps these projects open for like-minded people to come forward and collaborate. FIL/MMF also pitches the project to the government to get their permissions and active participation.
Local community participation is very important for the success of such projects. It is the local farmers, civic authorities and people of the regional communities who know their needs, the best. By encouraging local communities to be an active sound-board, be involved in problem-solving and take ownership every step of the way, will actually result in a long-lasting relationship and success of such initiatives.
The foundation began venturing in water conservation to alleviate water scarcity in Maharashtra with initiatives in the following villages: Rede, Solapur, Sordi, Sangli, district, Kalamwadi and Kondbavi in Solapur, Katgun, Satara district, Wadgoan Anand in Pune District. Some of our activities included:
- De-silting the existing reservoirs and old Cement Nala Bands (CNB).
- Cleaning the reservoirs and doubling storage capacity.
- Residual mixture collection during the cleaning process which was then useful for farmers to add to their cultivation
- This increased the fertility proposition of the soil. This in turn brought about bountiful harvests, which benefited more than 1 lakh households
- Plantation of 8,000 trees in Ratnagiri, Masar and most recently in Aundh Military Area, Pune
We need to acknowledge that we need water not only for our personal needs, but also for agriculture and industrial use. We have to conserve each and every drop of water which is being wasted today. Water conservation in India should be a mass movement because as per the Economic Survey: India is speedily heading towards ‘water insecurity’.
Strategic schemes like rain-water harvesting need to be applied at scale. Education about water conservation should start at school-level. Civic societies should take an active role in spreading awareness and launching initiatives that will have meaningful impact.
It is being conscious today that will help us have a lush future tomorrow. We need to conserve, reserve and be mindful in our use of water. Every drop truly counts!
(Ritu Chhabria, Managing Trustee, Mukul Madhav Foundation)