Sangli, a drought-prone area, witnesses scanty rainfall almost every year. The average annual rainfall of the area, which falls in the rain shadow region, is around 350-450 mm. As the area is located on an acute slope, the rainwater flows away. The villagers’ only source of water is Agrani river, a tributary of Krishna river that extends across 107 villages, which are part of five talukas in Sangli district. In 2013, to address the water woes of the area, the district administration of Sangli, Jal Biradari, an NGO, and the residents of 107 villages joined hands to rejuvenate the Agrani River Basin.
Earlier this month, Jal Biradari was invited to present a case study module on Agrani River Rejuvenation by the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration, Mussoorie. The module will be included in the syllabus for training IAS officers and collectors who come from all over the country to undergo training at the Academy.
Narendra Chugh, a member of NGO Jal Biradari, explained, “… We studied the topography of the region and came to the conclusion that if we want to provide water to villages located on upper altitudes, then we need to find a way to arrest water near those villages.”
As many as 27 check dams have been built under the Agrani River Basin Rejuvenation Project (ARBRP), in the last four years. Of the 107 villages, 50 villages fall under 9,000 hectares of forest land in the higher region. In nearly 40 per cent of the 9,000 hectares of forest land, Jal Biradari has done deep CCT (continuous contour trenches) work in order to arrest rainwater.
“This replenishes the groundwater and makes the river perennial. If we keep using groundwater and don’t replenish it, water conservation efforts will not be successful… In the first 30 kms of the river, we have also tried to remove encroachments and bring it back to its original width,” added Chugh.
“…In every village, the villagers are sensitised on the importance of water and why encroachments are harmful. The work started in April 2013 and three dams were built within three months,” said Chugh.
District Collector of Sangli, Shekhar Gaikwad, said, “After realising the potential benefits of River Agrani, we decided to aim for the rejuvenation of the river under Jalyukat Shivar Abhiyan,” adding that the administration and Jal Biradari appealed people to participate on a large scale. After completion of work, the irrigation potential of 423 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) was created. In terms of acreage, the irrigation potential created is 1,016 hectares.
The amount of desiltation work done is 4,23,145 cubic metres in Agrani River, said Gaikwad.
Chandrashekhar Patole, executive engineer, small-scale irrigation department and water conservation, Sangli Division, said, “…A project like this, which may take another three-four years of aggressive and rigorous efforts, will be helpful in replenishing groundwater”.