“I have never seen so much pure, clean water in decades, in fact in my whole life. It seems too good to be true. I hope it lasts till I die,” Hatade said, eyes turning moist as he filled a weathered bucket from a nearby flowing stream.
Hatade is a resident of Daphalapor village in Sangli in western Maharashtra, among those benefitted by a government initiative to bring water to some of the most parched villages.
Daphalapor is just one among 2,200 villages in the region falling under a rain shadow and suffering from recurring drought.
Besides hitting crops and livestock, the drought has plummeted ground water levels to alarming depths, as witnessed by a select team of visiting mediapersons.
This is despite 11 big and small dam projects which have been taken up, hundreds of crores of rupees invested but without bringing respite to the daily sufferings.
But a unique initiative, costing Rs.445 crore, spearheaded by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan coupled with an unexpected bonanza of heavy rains, has brought smiles to the farmers and villagers.
“Instead of merely targeting the drought-relief operations, the state government decided to take up an Integrated Watershed Management Programme to make these areas self-sufficient without depending solely on monsoon,” said Sangli Collector D.S. Kushwaha.
This was done in the form of constructing small cement check dams to prevent the precious rainwater from flowing into the drains, creating tiny farm ponds and percolation tanks.
In addition, desilting works were carried out in existing water sources, revatilising of old bunds and wells and augmenting locally available water resources in the 368 villages (of 2,200), which fall in Sangli district.
These measures led to electrifying results, according to Satara Collector N. Ramaswamy.
In Daphalapor, the ground water level rose from -6.92 metres in 2012 to -0.22 metres this year. In Athapadi village, it rose from -0.96 metres to +0.87 metres, virtually making it a fertile, marshy region.
The increased groundwater levels have resulted in increased water diverted to existing and new storage points in these regions, which are now flush with water.