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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Gamdani moj : Old pictures of villages

 Drive into the little village of Raj-Samadhiyala in this chronically drought affected state and you will discover another side of the availabilit

Is Narmada the only answer for Gujarat's parched lips? At least that is what it appears from the way the state governments, past and present have tried to divert the waters of this river to the state. And most people of the state believe this is the only answer.

But not all. Drive down just 20 kilometres on the Rajkot-Jamnagar highway to the little village of Raj-Samadhiyala in this chronically drought affected state and you will discover another side of the availability of water in the state.

Photo courtesy: CSE

While driving through unrelieved miles of thirsty land and desperate looking people, you may be forgiven for thinking that you've suddenly been rewarded with an oasis. At the height of summer, there about 50,000 trees, the fields have standing crops and what is perhaps most amazing, there is water in the taps!

So why does this village have the magic wand? There is no overflowing water source, or no kinder than usual guardian deity. In fact just about two decades ago, villagers from nearby villages refused to marry their daughters here and it was part of the desert development programme.

Today the difference Raj-Samadhiyala has with neighbouring villages like Amiala or Dhandiya is telling. And the single factor making the difference is water. Combined with Hardevsingh Jadeja.

Jadeja who? Jadeja, the iron willed sarpanch of Raj-Samadhiyala, a village of about 280 households that is being held up as an example by governments and activists alike across the world. A local from the Thakur community, he became the sarpanch in 1978 and since then has worked tirelessly to transform the village.

A village without a stream, Jadeja first decided to make it possible to store the 20 odd inches of monsoon rainfall that the village got. This obviously was easier said than done. A graduate from Saurashtra University, Jadeja explains in his broken English that that was a struggle that involved long years of research and seeking help.

After approaching various agencies, he finally got the drainage pattern of rainfall mapped by a visiting ISRO hydrologist, who prepared a satellite map of the village. The issue then was to stop the run-off from flowing away. This would be possible, he finally realized, only by the construction of numerous small of check dams. He approached the state government with his plans and persuaded them to lend a fraction of the funds needed to make these dams, which finally came from District Rural Development Agency (DRDA). The labour came from the villagers, who were initially unconvinced about the potential of small dams in a land where big dams are the temples of hope.

And in the last few years, these check dams have kept growing in number. And it is what this is made possible is where marc-level planners need to take note. As opposed to the one monsoon crop they managed grow earlier, the village now can grow crops three times a year. And this even in years with four inches of rainfall. The annual vegetable sale has gone up to about 25 lakh a year. And it is the range of crops that leaves one stunned - wheat, cauliflower, chilies, tomato, coriander, brinjal, potato, radish, carrot, guava, chikoo, mango, amla, sugarapple, even water intensive groundnut.

The check dams have ensured that the rainwater percolates underground, which has seen the groundwater levels rise gradually over the years. So every village house has access to piped water, certainly a rarity in rural India.

And these riches have transformed the life in the village. Since Jadeja has taken over, he has enforced a strict 'code of law', which includes numerous civic and social codes. For example, there is no litter in the village streets, as anyone caught littering has to pay a hefty fine! A remarkable law that most of India could do well to emulate, this is not the only thing step Jadeja has taken.

The village has already received the state award for its achievements in family planning. In the 1990s, it actually managed to bring down its population by 200, and this when migration was no longer an attractive option for villagers.

Credit sources : hindustan times 

Small is beautiful. Raj-Samadhiyala, with 45 water harvesting structures, has proved that in no uncertain terms. Just the mere collection of rainwater and tapping it properly has given it the necessary springboard for overall development - a model that other villages affected by water scarcity would do well to emulate, if only to ensure their own survival.

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