2016 was one of the worst drought years in Maharashtra, especially in the Marathwada region. In districts like Latur, Beed, Osmanabad, conditions were so bad that the government had to provide drinking water through railways. Maharashtra government has started new scheme called “Jalyukta Shiwar” to make Maharashtra drought free till 2019. Though this new scheme led to a lot of high expectations in the region, two years from 2015, it has failed to produce the desired result.
But nowadays, there is new hope for the people from the Marathwada region because of the Paani foundation, started by Amir Khan and his wife Kiran Rao in early 2016. But why is a private NGO making more of an impact than the flagship scheme of the Maharashtra government? The main difference lies in its implementation and the way it works.
Paani foundation has arranged Satyamev Jayate Cups (water cups) for the villages. The Satyamev Jayate water cup is essentially a competition between different villages to see who can do the maximum work for watershed management and water conservation in the period of the competition. The top three villages will get cash prizes of ₹50 lakh, ₹30 lakh and ₹20 lakh respectively. In addition, the top village from each taluka (administrative centre) will get a cash prize of ₹10 lakh.
If a village has secured one of the top three prizes at the state level, then it will not be eligible for the ₹10 lakh prize that will be given to the top village in the taluka. In such a case, the top prize of the taluka will go to the next village.
So what is the difference between the two schemes? Is it rewards? No, obviously not. The main difference lies in the participation of the people. The Maharashtra government has launched the ambitious “Jalyukta Shiwar Abhiyan” to work on watershed management at the village level. Several NGOs and corporates have adopted villages and are constructing local water conservation works for this purpose. While all of this work is extremely important, Paani foundation are approaching the challenge from a diametrically different direction.
They believe that it is the people themselves who have the power and the greatest capacity to solve the problem of water. If people are convinced and motivated, they will find the land, the money, the know-how, the labour, and whatever else is required, to harvest and manage their water. This approach offers the real possibility of a mammoth and rapid scale-up of the effort to solve the water crisis. Every person in the village is participating in the work of water conservation. Children are also helping in this work during their summer holiday. People are coming out early in the morning to do the “Shramdaan” before 12pm. As the period of April and May in Maharashtra is considered to be a lean season in terms of agriculture, there is not much work to be done in the field.
The Foundation is working on three major fronts.
Motivation: People must be convinced that localised rainwater harvesting and watershed management is the way to ensure water security. Farmers, industrialists, citizens from every walk of life – adults and children – will have to be part of the movement. Every person must be convinced that he or she has a role to play in this and that this role can be played easily and joyfully. The Foundation aims to use every form of mass media and digital media to motivate people by entertaining them, educating them and emotionally drawing them into this movement.
Training: The Foundation is working towards training five persons per village from 30,000 drought-prone villages in Maharashtra to work on watershed management. This will entail training nearly 1.5 lakh people in total. This training will have two key components. The first is the technical aspects of watershed management and the second is the leadership challenge which, at heart, is the challenge of getting people together and united for this task.
A Platform for Resources: The Foundation aims to create a digital platform that will enable people to:
In a nutshell, the Foundation’s focus is to motivate, train and empower people to solve their water crisis through their own efforts. So what is the result of the one year of work? 116 villages across three talukas of Maharashtra competed to make their village water-sufficient in 2016.
The total water storage created by the competing villages was 1,368 crore litres of water which is equal to 13,68,000 tankers of water. This is equal to ₹272 crore worth of water which the country has saved annually. In 2017, more than 1,300 villages are participating in the Satyamev Jayate Water Cup. Paani foundation has visited several villages and through the active participation of villagers, and with help from politicians and the administration, they have changed the mindset of people towards water conservation.
The majority of Indian dams are in Maharashtra but what is the percentage o irrigation? It’s near about 19% of the total cropped area. So one can easily guess why farmers are dying in Maharashtra. Big dams require huge investment and land, which creates another set of problems like earthquakes and the displacement of thousands of people. But the Paani Foundation are creating small dams to conserve rainwater which can be utilised for drinking, household use and farming throughout the year. It also helps clarify certain ideas to people. As people themselves are conserving water, they know how much effort is required to conserve water, which ultimately helps them to use water judiciously.
After spending crores of rupees for water storage in Maharashtra, there is no visible sign of water conservstion. But using a diametrically opposite strategy, Paani Foundation is creating visible impact in the rural areas of Maharashtra. So this should be used as a prototype by the government of India in other parts of country to solve the water crisis, which is clearly visible due to the impact of climate change.