Experiments with 'community wells'

Mobilized farmers in Dhule, Maharashtra, show how communities can use groundwater as a common resource in an organised and collective manner.
Community wells: A shared groundwater resource Community wells: A shared groundwater resource

Rapid increase in the use of groundwater and its declining availability has threatened the existence of this important resource. A community experiment by Desh Bandhu and Manju Gupta Foundation (DBMG), which involves implementing water resource development and mobilising farmers to use groundwater as a common resource through group wells, is showing good results.

What are the characteristics of ‘community wells’?

  • Groundwater to be treated as a community resource and not as private
  • Groundwater to be used equitably by all the community members and not be monopolized by a few resource-rich farmers.
  • Control the rampant increase in number of wells and groundwater use

What did the Dhule initiative include?

  • Implementation of community wells programme in two districts
  • Activities to include watershed development, group well and water harvesting structures construction
  • Expenses shared equally between farmers & DBMG foundation
  • Successful sharing of water initiated

How is water sharing carried out?

  • Formal and legal agreement signed between group members
  • Water shared by the whole group
  • All members cultivate equal amounts of land
  • All follow same cropping pattern
  • All contribute equally
  • Well belongs to the whole group and not a single individual

Salient features of the initiative

  • Formal agreements between farmers
  • Nothing is given as free to farmers to develop a sense of ownership
  • Provision of easy loans to farmers through DBMG
  • Forward linkage in terms of better varieties of seeds, better agricultural practices provided
  • Only for resource poor farmers who do not have wells

Areas of improvement

  • More data collection and assessment
  • Use of water saving techniques like drip irrigation & sprinklers
  • Need to scale up the programme
  • Need to start recharge protection and artificial recharge measures
  • Bring all initiatives under one banner
  • Start an advocacy campaign

The report, Experiments with common use of groundwater:Experience from Dhule, Maharashtra, details the initiative in greater detail.

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