Pani Panchayat: A model of groundwater management – A presentation by ACWADAM

Pani Panchayat is a voluntary activity of a group of farmers engaged in the collective management (harvesting and distribution) of surface water and groundwater (wells and percolation tanks).

Pani PanchayatThe presentation by ACWADAM deals with Pani Panchayats as a model of groundwater management.

Pani Panchayat is the name first given to a movement by Mr. Vilasrao Salunke for motivating farmers of Naigaon village of the drought-prone Purandhar taluka of Maharashtra in 1974. The government's inability to deal with the drought situation prompted him to take a 40 acre land on lease from the village temple trust and develop a recharge pond in the recharge area of the village, a dug well in the discharge zone and a lift irrigation system.

Farmers got impressed with the results demanding a scale up of the experiment leading to the setting up of Gram Gaurav Pratisthan (GGP) through which the work was expanded to encompass both groundwater and surface water management. 

The principles and protocols for water management and demand management followed by GGP include:

  • Only community irrigation schemes
  • Decoupling the water and land rights; landless people were also given water right (through lease of land to landless people) leading to increased productivities of land, water and people.
  • Water distribution on per capita basis, for maximum of 2.5 acre land (grain need of a person is fulfilled from half an acre land, with a family size of 5)
  • Ban on water intensive crops like sugarcane and banana.
  • 20 per cent contribution by community.
  • No individual wells in the command area.
  • Restriction on sale of land; wherever land was sold, irrigation right was not passed on to the buyer.

Pani Panchayat principles covered equity, demand management, rights of landless, community participation and sustainability of the resource. Its structure comprised of -

  • Water user group for each lift irrigation scheme which in turn had a representation in the village level Pani Panchayat;
  • Election of the representatives of the village level Committee;
  • Decentralized decision making with public participation;
  • Monthly meeting of the committee to review, plan work and resolve conflicts;
  • Ensuring equitable water distribution;
  • Collection of Pani Patti;
  • Maintenance of the scheme.

This presentation is part of the training modules on planning, development and management of groundwater with special reference to watershed management programmes by ACWADAM. Please write to ACWADAM at for sourcing these presentations.


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