Rapar ends its long wait for water

How an arid, saline land where migration in search of water and jobs was a way of life, boasts of plenty of water now.
Rapar has many water structures now. (Source: Samerth Trust)
Rapar has many water structures now. (Source: Samerth Trust)

Summer temperatures soar to a gruelling 50ocelsius in Rapar, a little known block in Gujarat’s Kutch district. Land here is dry, saline and arid; the monsoon is erratic. Many a times, the entire year’s rain falls in a short span of two or three days, doing more harm than good. Dubbed a dark zone, groundwater extraction is rampant even as agriculture remains the main source of income.  Water here is a luxury, available only to the rich upper caste Patel farmers who have their agricultural lands next to the water sources.

Vandhs are settlements in deep desert lands.

For the marginalised communities, it is another story. In the village, the Kolis and the Harijans live in vandhs, the settlements in deep, desert lands, where they build coarse dug wells that fulfill their water needs for a few months after the monsoon. Women walk 3-8 km each day to fetch drinking water. Once this supposedly close source of water dries up, the families simply migrate. They move bag and baggage towards greener pastures in search of water and work, putting at risk their health, stability and the future of their children. The OBCs (other backward class) mainly rear cattle in Rapar. When the dry weather sets in, they migrate, too, with their families and animals in tow, walking for miles and living in camps for months, patiently waiting for the monsoons to come again.

Samerth, a non-profit development organisation, began their Rapar journey in 2001 to try and resolve the water needs of the community. With the support and contribution of the community, they constructed water structures and formed a Paani Samiti from the beneficiary households for each structure in the vandhs. With the implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), an opportunity to restore traditional water structures arose. Jaldoots or water messengers--the people trained under the MGNREGA act to help others in executing crucial projects like water for the village, were appointed which further helped build the village assets, with strong support from the villagers.

By 2009, an integrated strategy emerged, where the community, along with the technical experts designed and planned all interventions. These micro plans became the cornerstone for construction of village water structures, which involved the otherwise sidelined vandh community. In 2012, Samerth trained locals in geohydrology aspects, so that they were competent and confident to plan, retain and recharge their water resources better. 

Today, the impacts of these initiatives are clearly visible. Till date, 34 ponds, three road works, four afforestation works, 72 earthen check dams and 70 dug wells have been constructed in the target area. Migration has reduced by more than 50 percent, the poorer communities now rear more animals as an added source of income and dairies have come up, too. 

While the neighbouring areas face water scarcity, Rapar’s water structures built with Samerth support, sparkle with water even in peak summers. The following pictures are a testimony to this successful intervention: 

Gam Talav in Chitrod Gram Panchayat. Built in 2014 with support from a private donor and MGNREGA, 150 people worked for eight weeks to achieve this. Water has given the villagers the choice to look for livelihood alternatives in and around their villages.

 A cattle rearer, Hussain (27), has been migrating to Gandhidham to work as a salt pan worker for many years. Today he and 50 other families in his vandh have not migrated for two years in a row.

 

Gam Talav in Kanmer. A good monsoon ensures that the ponds and wells in the region are recharged with water.

A herd of cows at the talav. Now there is a dairy collection point in the village and the Koli people have bought more cows last year to add to their business.

Anditimbi talav in Mewasa  is predominantly used for drinking by the villagers and their cattle. There is no other water source within 4 km radius of the pond.

There is always water in the  well in Nanda village. Thanks to the regular water supply, the animals in the village are stronger and the income from them have increased.

The Paani Samiti of the Sanva Panchayat ensures that the pond is well maintained and the water is reserved for drinking.

In the Jodhpur vandh, the Koli families own small patches of land with no water source. They used to migrate to far off regions after the monsoon.

Velejibhai of Jodhpur vandh cultivates vegetables in his small farm and sells them at the market. Through his earnings, he has been able to sustain his family and send his three children to school.

 

 

 

Please download the complete report ‘Digging for dreams’ from below. 

This write up is a collation of the ongoing work by the Samerth team. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/organisation, and do not necessarily reflect those of India Water Portal. 

All images: Courtesy Samerth Trust

 

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