Last year in November, Ganeshwadi, a hamlet of Kolam tribals in Maharastra’s Yavatmal, was the first in the district to get water supply through tankers. This year, the village doesn’t need tankers — it has enough water to last this
season and next summer.
What made this possible was a unique inter-departmental initiative of the Maharashtra government under the Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Mission (MVSTM).
The village sits on a watershed in the hilly forested patch of Kalamb tehsil, as a result of which rainwater runs down the slopes, leaving Ganeshwadi, a village of 803 people, dry. Villagers had to walk several kilometers for water.
Not anymore. With five major water conservation initiatives undertaken jointly by the Water Resources Department, the Agriculture Department and the Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (GSDA) under the state government’s flagship Jalyukta Shivar Yojana, the village has seen a dramatic rise in its water table – by more than eight metres. Today, two major wells in the village, which used to run dry by this time of the year, are brimming with water.
On the ground, the water conservation programme was steered by Mayuri Mahatale, a Chief Minister’s Fellow appointed under MVSTM. The 23-year old with a BE degree in Electronics and Telecommunications from Nagpur is among hundreds of young men and women who have been chosen under MVSTM to work with village communities.
“In Ganeshwadi, we undertook various projects such as earthen nullah bunding, built loose boulder structures and dug at least 40 recharge shafts at various locations, which is a record for Yavatmal district,” says Mayuri, who stayed in the village for about a year but has since shifted to a Jodmoha, a bigger village about 10 km away, and commutes daily to Ganeshwadi on her scooter.
Sarpanch Jijabai Ghodam says the government spent over Rs 1 lakh on the water rejuvenation project and the “village contributed through shramdaan (labour)”.
The largest of the water structures that have come up in the village is a 40x30x2 metre reservoir that now has a two-metre-deep water column. Due to percolation effect, an adjacent well now has a water column of about 35 feet. A manual pump, designed by IIT-Mumbai and installed on the well, can draw water from 25 feet deep. The villagers have built a water tank near the well for their cattle.
A little distance away, villagers have constructed an earthen dam on a nullah. “Earlier, the nullah used to run dry. But this time, the dam has helped recharge the water table,” says Mahatale.
The government has also helped deepen a nullah, creating a large water body that’s about 120 metres long and 2.5 metres deep.
Besides another water body, deep continuous contour trenches (CCT) have been dug along the slopes of a hillock in the village to facilitate percolation of rain water that would have otherwise run down the slope.
The 40 recharge shafts that have been dug across the village connect all water bodies, thus distributing the recharge benefit across all water bodies.
Rajesh Savle, senior geologist with GSDA in Yavatmal, says, “An 8.5-metre increase in the water table may sound exaggerated, but it has really happened in Ganeshwadi. It was mainly due to recharge shafts since the village sits on a very hard strata with no fractures. We had to create fractures to make way for water to settle down and recharge the water bodies’ acquifers. Apart from three main supply wells, four borewells have come alive.”
That’s not all. “With help from the Tata Trust and the state government, we have created five groups of villagers who have been provided fingerlings to enable fish cultivation in these water bodies. Currently, there are 32 members doing the business under the Group Growout Fisheries Farming. They hope to harvest their first production in about three months,” says Mahatale.
The water conservation effort, however, is just enough for drinking and other daily use. “While agriculture is still rain-fed, now that the wells have all recharged, farmers with wells in their fields can now even grow rabi crops,” says Agriculture Assistant Vinod Aglave.
“The next part of the mission is to install solar pumps on all wells for uninterrupted water supply in case of power cuts,” says Mahatale.