India Interior

Vaishali turns the water table in a matter of a day

Usha Rai | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on September 23, 2016

Collective power Under the Mission 24x7 campaign in Vaishali, a whopping 7,158 rooftop rainwater harvesting structures were constructed on July 24

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Bihar district builds a record number of water harvesting structures



For a few years now, the groundwater table in Vaishali district of Bihar has been falling, leading to a shortage of drinking water in the summer months.

Villages, in particular, were dependent on hand pumps, which in some areas hardly yielded a few buckets of water.

This year, the district’s dynamic young magistrate, Rachana Patil, decided to rectify the situation and motivated all wings of the government — including schools, health centres, anganwadis, agriculture and electricity supply departments, panchayats and the community — to actively harvest rainwater. The result: a whopping 7,158 rooftop rainwater harvesting units were constructed on a single day — July 24.

Unicef provided the technical assistance and, using locally available material, 14,000 people constructed the low-cost structures on every conceivable government and semi-government buildings, including ration shops. The district MLA, all government officials, Unicef’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) specialist Pravin More and other representatives were present to cheer the campaign.

It happened one day...

Called Mission 24x7, the campaign, which began on July 16 with advocacy and ended on July 24 with the construction of the harvesting structures, has created a catchment area of 65 lakh sq ft across the district. As Vaishali gets 1,168 mm rainfall annually, nearly 70 crore litre of harvested rainwater will recharge the groundwater. Now the feat is all set to enter the Limca Book of Records.

The original target was 7,000 structures and a catchment of 50 lakh sq ft. Each department had to state how many units it would construct. After the completion of work, the official concerned had to send a report, accompanied by a photograph, through Whatsapp to the district control room. Thus, not only did the campaign receive tremendous response, it was also micro-managed.

Ironically, water-starved Vaishali is flanked by two powerful rivers, Ganga and Gandak, and flooding is a major problem here. Several small patches remain submerged for long periods. The groundwater quality in some blocks, such as Bidupur, is a matter of concern, owing to contamination with arsenic. The recharge in groundwater is expected to lower the arsenic levels.

As a next step, a cycle rally was flagged off to motivate the community to install rainwater harvesting structures in their homes.

Alongside recharging groundwater, the campaign stresses the need to use water judiciously and conserve it.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

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Published on September 23, 2016
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