Sustainable Development Success Stories

Conjunctive use of water resources in Deccan Trap/India

Location Akole Taluka, Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra State, India
Responsible Organisation Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF), Pune, Maharashtra, India;

University of Windsor Earth Sciences, Windsor, Ontario, Canada; and the tribal and rural people of Akole Taluka, Maharashtra, India.

Description Akole Taluka receives monsoon rainfall June  September, and little or no precipitation during the rest of the year. The tribal and rural people were destitute, farming at a subsistence level of production. Many had health problems (gastro-intestinal disorders, skin diseases), related to water shortage. By tradition, women bore the hardships of finding water. Hard work alone could not break the cycle of poverty and ill health. Self-esteem was low. The project goal was to design a management strategy for acquiring a year-round water supply. The initial emphasis was on domestic supply and any surplus was to be used for agriculture. Projected outputs were techniques for reducing the volume of monsoon rains, leaving the area as runoff. The inhabitants of three villages (population 3,239 in 1993) participated in setting up demonstration sites for appropriate water-spreading and -harvesting techniques. The initial assessment of needs included rapid appraisal of water use and public health. Project research integrated (1) field and laboratory studies of soils and bedrock, (2) onsite hydrologic and hydrogeologic investigations, and (3) indigenous knowledge of terrain features and botanical indicators of ground water. The funding agency was the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada. Planning of the project was finalised, when IDRC brought the intending partners together in the summer and fall of 1991. The project term was from April 1992 to March 1996. Unspent funds were reallocated for assessment of project sustainability during April-May, 1997.
Issues Addressed Water-resource management, capacity building (vocational training at the village level, professional retraining for BAIF personnel, institutional development in BAIF through minor additions of equipment).
Results Achieved Terracing of the hillsides was expanded. Ridges and trenches were configured to divert runoff underground. Artificial recharge, deepening of dug wells, and workovers on bore wells improved water-well yields. Checkdams were constructed to trap spring and seepage waters in reservoirs. Some spring discharges were collected in tanks. The rain, falling on the roofs of houses, was collected and stored in tanks. The 494 households in the area have relatively easy access to water for domestic and agricultural use. 26 households have adopted roof-water-harvesting systems. Up to 20 percent of all households obtain water for domestic use from six developed springs. About 73,000 m3 of water are stored in the reservoirs behind 14 masonry checkdams and three ferrocement gabions. Water availability increased by about 750 l/d per capita during the driest part of the year. Decreases in the volume and velocity of runoff also had the effect of greatly reducing soil erosion. The slope modifications were augmented by 6,550 gully plugs, 75 dry-stone bunds, and 75 gabions. An annual soil loss of possibly as much as 150,000 tonnes was prevented. The increased soil moisture permitted villagers to obtain a second (winter) crop from 75 hectares of land. About 300 ha of wasteland were brought under cultivation during the rainy season. In 1995, the village watershed committees reported that 5 to 15 percent of farmers took produce to sell at local markets.

Villagers received training in construction of checkdams and gabions, excavation of trenches along contours of elevation, installation of roof-water harvesting systems, and maintenance of hand pumps. Basic instruction in hygiene and sanitation was provided and use of pit latrines is on the increase. BAIF personnel working in the project gained familiarity with basic field techniques in hydrology and hydrogeology. Other BAIF staff visited the area for the field component of a 1997 training course on water-resource management.

Lessons Learned The tribal and rural people were initially suspicious of all outsiders. However, they responded positively to suggestions that knowledge be shared. Respect for religious beliefs of the villagers played an integral part in the project. (Botanical indicators of shallow ground water are revered locally).
BAIF s field assistants lived in the villages and shared the daily hardships of the tribal and rural people. This promoted effective working relations.

Villagers, who were able to achieve success in water conservation and crop production by adopting the techniques of the project, served as role models.

The geology of the area seemed singularly unpromising for successful management of water resources. However, a research focus on fracture analysis gave good results and is transferable to the entire Deccan Trap region.

IDRC s dictum "empowerment through knowledge" really works! The tribal and rural people have gained confidence and a new outlook on life, evidenced by attention to personal appearance, better upkeep of houses, new housing starts, and a major improvement in morale.

The successes of this project have created an enabling environment for similar activities in adjacent areas. Other villages are forming partnerships with outsiders to develop more efficiently the scarce water resources.

Contacts Frank Simpson, Professor of Geology
University of Windsor Earth Sciences,
401 Sunset Ave., Windsor, Ontario, Canada N9B 3P4.
Tel. (1 519) 253 4232 ext. 2487; Fax (1 519) 973 7081
E-mail: franks@uwindsor.ca

Girish Sohani, Executive Vice President
BAIF Development Research Foundation,
Dr. Manibhai Desai Nagar,
National Highway No. 4,
Warje, Pune 411 029, India
Tel. (91 212) 365494, 369955; Fax (91 212) 366788
E-mail: baif@wmi.co.in