A year ago, when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis inaugurated the first Jalyukta Shivar project in Rajni village of Katol taluka in Nagpur district, it was a long stretch of lifeless barren land. But today, a beautiful lake bathed in the golden hues of winter sunshine has sprung to life here.
The barren land has transformed into lush green fields as farmers are reassured of water. A flock of white cranes has also made it the chosen destination, looking for easy food in the flowing water.
This is the village which has always relied on water tankers to meet its thin population for the last two decades.
But the water conservation projects undertaken to revive old water structures buried under the soil and shrubs have worked to their advantage.
According to Nagpur district collector Sachin Kurve, “Katol and Narkhed were always marked as dark zones in the district. Almost 314 villages are being treated to Jalyukta Shivar.”
The signs of change was evident as deputy sarpanch Roopdas Mahant explains, “For past two years, we have never seen water in this river Langdi. We had dismissed it as a dead river. But after the works in our villages, it has regained its old glory.”
Across the state, there have been 1.20 lakh projects spread over 6,200 villages with investment of Rs 1, 400 crore.
In Katol and Narkhed, the district officer on special duty, Avinash Katade, said, “ We have completed almost 300 works in 99 villages in just two talukas along a 94-km stretch.”
These works have brought 3,000 hectares of additional land under cultivation. Traditionally, crops were sown on 20,000 hectares in Katol and Narkhed, Katade added. The reassured water has helped villagers take up cultivation of oranges and sweet lime in large numbers, though some farmers are diversifying in pomegranate which is providing better remumerations compared to oranges.
Farmers lamented that oranges are fetching Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000 per tonne compared to sweetlime (mosambi) at Rs 20,000-25,000 per tonne. The integrated water conservation projects have ensured team efforts, admits DK Kale, an agriculture department official.
The Jalyukta Shivar model varies in every cluster. In Jhelpi village, which is dotted with orange orchids, the stress was on replacing the iron gates with cement barrages along the canals at regular intervals, and deepening and enlarging water bodies. The rocky hilly terrain at Gondi Digras village, on the other hand, has adopted the CCT model. The work involves creating trenches every three metres to
The team of officials, who are regularly monitoring the schemes with the help of villagers, said that it would be a long-drawn project as farmers have dug borewells beyond 800-900 feet to scout for water. According to Dinesh Tilhari, who looks after the sweetlime fields, “Cultivation has increased substantially due to jalyukta shivar. Almost every farmer, who would otherwise exercise caution, is taking up some crop.”
Pointing to the nearby farm well, Tilhari said, “Last year, the water table in this well had touched rock bottom. Today, it has remained stagnant despite more sowing.”