After a good start to the monsoon, a two-week dry spell in Vidarbha has farmers worried. However, it’s a different story at Madni village in Seloo tehsil of Wardha district and Zilpa and Gondi-Digras villages in Katol tehsil of Nagpur district. Two nullahs and a river here are full to the brim, thanks to the Jalyukt Shivar programme.
Orange farmers in Katol, which is known as California of India, have been witnessing fast depletion of the ground water table, which currently stands at a thousand feet below the surface. With hundreds of water conservation projects being implemented in the district under Jalyukt Shivar, a turnaround could be around the corner.
“I cannot describe the happiness in our village when we saw the huge quantity of water in the cement plug across the nullah, an amount we haven’t seen for as far as we can remember,” said Abhay Dhokne of Madni. “It has raised water levels in all the wells of the village.”
“Villagers volunteered to work for deepening and broadening of the nullahs. Farmers happily parted with parts of their farms near the nullah for broadening. The silt excavated was spread across farms, enhancing soil fertility,” said Katol BJP MLA Ashish Deshmukh, who has been actively involved in the programme.
The political implication of the programme is not lost on Deshmukh as with other MLAs who have thrown their weight behind the project. A flagship programme of the new dispensation in the state, the scheme is being personally supervised by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Fadnavis has been visiting 7-8 villages in each district to check the progress of the scheme. “This has ensured that the respective collectors personally ensure that the work is completed on time,” said an official.
Being implemented in over 6,000 most severely water-stressed villages of the state in the first phase, the scheme envisages covering all such villages over the next four years with the convergence of all watershed programmes of state and central governments.
“We are undertaking different kinds of watershed works depending on availability of water resources near the villages. For example, where there are no nullahs, we are developing gradient bunds around farms where rainwater gets stored. Elsewhere, cement plugs and check dams in series are being built across nullahs at very low costs. Like, a check dams on Zilpa nullah was built at just over Rs 9 lakh, which could have otherwise have cost about Rs 60 lakh, thanks to NGOs, corporates and locals contributing,” said Wardha collector Ashutosh Salil.
Innovations are an important part of the scheme. “The iron gates at the weirs we have been building over the years invariably get stolen. So, we have built cement ramps instead of gates filling up the upstream side of the dam with boulders. This has served the purpose of gates, with no question of sabotage,” said an official. So far, water has been stored on stretches adding up to 97 km in Wardha district. Similar progress has been reported in Nagpur district, too.