India Interior

Waiting for rain — with three ponds and a determined will

T V Jayan | Updated on May 31, 2019 Published on May 31, 2019

All for water People of Kosmai village building a canal to connect the ponds; (right) Girls draw water from the only public well in Lakshmipur-Kosmai villages Kamal Narang   -  Kamal Narang

Young girls drawing water from the only public well in Lakshmipur-Kosmai villages in Koderma, Jharkhand Kamal Narang

Koderma district in Jharkhand is all set for water harvesting

It is only once in the last four years that Koderma district in Jharkhand received annual rainfall that can be somewhat called normal in meteorologists’ parlance. In all the other years the precipitation was deficient. The year 2018 was the worst with the district, which abuts Nawada district of the State, receiving a mere 559 mm, just half of what it normally gets in a year.

The twin villages of Lakshmipur-Kosmai in Koderma’s Domchanch block, in fact, were among the worst hit. There are 92 households in these villages, but they have just one public well whose water they share with at least one more village in the vicinity. The water available in the well is limited and muddy at best. The village women say fights break out often over the quantity of water drawn from the well.

If this was the case regarding drinking water, one can well imagine what would be the condition about availability of water for farming. The villages are nestled in a degraded forest, which the villagers have vowed to protect from illegal loggers. There are several patches of fields where the villagers grow rice and maize in the years they get adequate monsoon rains.

“Last year too, we sowed rice as we received some rains in the beginning, but all the plants perished as a prolonged dry spell persisted. My family of nine people, including my mother and two married sons and grandchildren, received not even a single grain from our three-acre land in the 2018 kharif season,” says Devki Singh, a 55-year-old farmer.

The efforts to grow maize by some other farmers in the village also came to naught because of patchy rains, he says.

Forest as catchment area

The villagers, however, were lucky that Savera Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation based in nearby Jhumri Telaiya town, stepped in. “We realised that the topography of the area is such that water availability can be easily secured. The forest around can serve as good catchment area, what we needed were harvesting structures where we can store water,” says Ashok Kumar Singh, Secretary of the Foundation.

With funds raised from some donors, Savera Foundation got down to designing a watershed project for the villages. “The idea was to have three ponds — one after another. While the first pond has a dimension of 60 by 40 feet, the second was of 60 by 60 ft dimension. The third, which is closer to the habitation in the villages, was the biggest — 400 ft long and 200 ft wide — each with a depth of 12 ft,” he says. “We could convince the villagers about the potential of such a watershed project. They readily agreed to be part of the effort. We designed the project in such a manner that they would be paid for part of their physical labour and the other half would be their equity,” says Singh. As a result, they could make these water harvesting structures ready at a paltry expense of ₹2.25 lakh.

“We are waiting for the rains now. All these ponds are interconnected in such a way that the overflow from the first pond will go to the second and that from the second will fill the third,” says Phoolmati Devi, a 35-year-old woman from Kosmai village who volunteered to help in constructing the watershed.

“Water is a real problem in our village. The quality of water available is very poor. Besides, there are several instances of chorachori (stealing) of water, leading to fights between households,” she says, adding that the watershed would help solve such issues.

Afforestation drive too

The Foundation has also been creating awareness about conserving water, maintaining quality of drinking water as well as the need for protecting trees around to ensure better water recharge. “In fact, we have given each family in the village five saplings of fruit trees such as mango, jackfruit, and guava, and made them responsible for planting as well as taking care of them,” says Savera’s Singh.

The Foundation plans to work with the villagers to further increase the density of such fruit-bearing trees in the village, once water security is ensured. They hope that ensuring water availability will also help improve economic activity in the villages, bringing prosperity. Currently, the villagers are not in a position to keep any livestock. With water becoming available this can change, points out Mahadev Singh, a village elder.

“What we target is an all-round development of the village. We want to work with other villages, even though the models can vary,” the Savera Foundation official says.

They are already working with some villages in the neighbouring district of Giridih. According to him, not just the villagers, even animals such as bears, jackals and rabbits in the neighbouring forest will benefit from such water harvesting structures. Currently, there are no sources of water available to them in the neighbourhood.

Come monsoon, the water woes of these twin villages will be mitigated completely — hopefully.

Published on May 31, 2019
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor