India Interior

Anicut and after...

Preeti Mehra | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on October 23, 2015

Local pride: A villager shows off the life-changing check dam at Khohar - Photo: Preeti Mehra

Vazirchand and Sumitra with their family

One small check dam helps stem migration in Khohar, Haryana



Every year, nearly all the 150 households of village Khohar, in Haryana’s Mewat district, pack their bags in September and embark on a journey to Gujarat. Hired to pick cotton, they spend the next 4-5 months in pitched tents, working from dawn to dusk.

“We return with around ₹50,000 earned between everyone in the family. This sees us through the rest of the year,” says Vazirchand, 42, who is making the trip again this year with his wife and two daughters.

“Our sons will stay behind, as they go to school,” pipes in his wife, Sumitra. Their two elder daughters were married recently. “That cost us every bit of our savings, so we will make the trip again this year, though a lot of people in the village are staying back to sow and harvest their fields,” she reveals.

Yes, this village of largely migrant labourers has transformed in less than a year. And causing this change is an unimpressive construction in a far corner that has brought in its wake impressive results. Water is once again appearing in wells that had gone dry, and moisture is seeping into unproductive soil. This has enthused 40 per cent of the population to stay back in the village and tend to crop and cattle.

Commissioned in December 2014 to recharge groundwater, the check dam close to the village temple was constructed by Sehgal Foundation, the development organisation working in the area. “Covering a catchment area of 255 acres, it has annual rainwater harvesting potential of 32 crore litres, and in 20 years can harvest around 640 crore litres of rainwater,” explains Programme Leader for Water Management Salahuddin Saiphy, whose back-of-the-envelope calculation says that for each rupee invested in the ₹68.62 lakh project, 933 litres of water will be harvested.

A survey by the foundation’s team found that a significant number of families were not migrating for work this year. It also found that soil quality had improved greatly. “In Om Prakash’s field, moisture was at zero per cent in May 2013, and it climbed to 22 per cent in May 2014 and 61 per cent in May 2015,” says Saiphy. In Sayyad’s field it climbed from zero to 62 per cent, and that trend was reflected in many other fields.

“So, this time my entire family will not go to Gujarat. Six out of 10 members will stay back as we have cultivated mustard, wheat, onion and cotton in the six bighas we have,” says 57-year-old Gyan Chand. He and his mates want the dam height increased, and more bore wells in the region.

Besides Khohar, the project will benefit the 7,000-odd population of Hajipur panchayat, as also Nangli and Patan Udaipuri villages on the other side of the dam. “We are expecting a long-term impact, which will add a host of other villages and take the beneficiary count to 19,605,” says Saiphy. For now, the slacking number of migrants and the moisture in the soil are cause to celebrate.

The writer visited Khohar at the invitation of Sehgal Foundation

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Published on October 23, 2015
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