Seeds of hope - Case studies from the Planning Commission and Lokayan

This set of case studies is part of a book prepared by Lokayan in collaboration with the Planning Commission titled “Seeds of Hope", covers themes of agriculture, biodiversity, education, forestry, governance, health, movements and water. The case studies related to water are summarised below:

The Water Women: A Case Study of Tank Restoration, Karnataka by Keya Acharya

The case study deals with Gram Vikas’s (GV) attempts at promoting the Grameena Mahila Okkutta or Rural Women’s Federation in 1994, which has now grown into a 5460-member strong independent women’s movement from 270 SHGs in three taluks of Kolar District, for tank restoration activities. The evolution of GV’s SHGs into what it is now came about from realizing that restoring the access to water through tank renovation would lead to ecological regeneration of the arid and degraded lands.

The Okkutta worked in close alliance with GV using its baseline data on tanks to gain experience on tank de-siltation matters and to secure loans for de-siltation. The mode and operations for these were decided through a series of joint meetings with farmers from the command and catchment area of the tanks, SHG members, Gram Panchayat members and Okkuta secretariat members.

Advocacy campaigns were undertaken wherein women were trained and armed with information on the state of tanks and their socio economic importance. Their efforts have resulted in the formation of Tank Development Committees to bear the overall responsibility of the project and carry out works of de-silting and restoring dilapidated sluices, spillways & crest gates. The case study also describes the Okkutta’s engagement in long-drawn protracted battles notably in Minjenahalli to get the administration to help them in their tank-restoration efforts. The Grameena Mahila Okkutta's struggle is now gathering momentum to ensure that the Government heeds to their demands.

Bhandara the Lake District, Maharashtra by Vijay Paranjpye

The case study focuses on the collective efforts of the Kohali Community of Bhandara district of Maharashtra, to arrest the flow of water amongst small hillocks and mountain ranges, to use it in the plains in this region. It deals with the numerous tanks found in the Bhandara district of Maharashtra and the technical ingenuity of the Kohali community who built them almost 400 years ago. Even to this date the tanks are the largest source of irrigation in the Bhandara district and it has a cropping pattern far superior than the rest of the State.

An evaluation of the traditional water systems helped find answers to problems of inequity, inefficiency, negative returns and non-sustainability related to current water management techniques. Replication of this technology in other areas of the district will necessitate combining this technology with modern watershed management techniques and practices.

The case study documents the success story of Aashti, in the Tumsar tahsil of Bhandara district. This is a unique example of community managed tank irrigation on lines of Bhandara tanks system, in the true spirit of the 73rd amendment.

People’s School of Energy, Allekod, Kerala by Deepak Malghan

The case study looks at the various initiatives being led by the People's School of Energy (PSE), Allekod, Kerala along with the local community to situate energy issues in the context of larger social, political processes. An effort has been made to understand the myriad linkages between energy resources and general ecology of the region. An attempt has been made to learn from other similar initiatives in South Asia.

The case study begins with the social, cultural and geographic history of the region as well as a brief history of People's School of Energy (PSE). The now famous initiative at Pathampara village that involved the building of the first completely community owned electric power plant in South India is discussed. Most of the initiatives in this study are in very early stages to be able to conclusively present these as a model that is replicable in other parts of the country. 

Following this, initiatives by the group in the area of water conservation and the launching of a movement to redistribute excess lands to Adivasis in the region is described. The study concludes that these seemingly disparate efforts are part of the larger goal of the group to understand the important linkages between ecology, equity and sustainability.

Rainwater Harvesting, Mizoram by Dunglena

The case study deals with the traditional water supply systems of Mizoram and the present status of drinking water supply. The hydrological characteristics and settlement pattern in the State are discussed in brief. Since towns are mostly located on hilltops or on the upper reaches of the hills and perennial streams, and rivers are much below habitations, scarcity of water in dry season is very common. Historically, springs on the hill slopes and valleys used to be the main sources of drinking water. During summer season most of the springs dried up or the yield got reduced and people were compelled to walk long distances to fetch water.

In 1900, the Britishers constructed a ground reservoir of 12 lakh gallons capacity on a hilltop at Aizawl. A sloped roof of corrugated galvanized iron sheets on timber frames was constructed around the reservoir for rainwater catchment. This was the only water supply of Aizawl till the year 1973. Spring water supplemented by rainwater harvesting is still the means of water supply in many villages and towns in Mizoram. The case study highlights the crisis as one of bad management of water resources and offers rainwater harvesting as a solution to meet the water demand.

Hiware Bazaar: Community stewardship of water resources, Maharahstra by Nikhil Anand

The case study deals with the transformation of Hiware Bazaar through the reassertion of democratic responsive water governance principles at the village level. By consistently calling upon every member of the society to consult with and participate in the process of their development, the Panchayat has succeeded in creating a sense of ownership and pride in Hiware Bazaar’s remarkable achievements.

Indications of Hiware Bazaar’s success do not lie in government recognition of its success, but more significantly in the re-migration the community has witnessed recently. Realizing the finite regenerative abilities of their grasslands, they boldly chose to reduce their demands on these. Aware that the water table had limited reserves, they banned water intensive activities as well as the means to draw on these. These decisions have resulted in a strong and active support for its village government.

Small Hydro, Himachal Pradesh by Prasant Negi

The paper looks at the debate on small hydro in the state of Himachal Pradesh and calls for an effective amalgamation of the available options rather than a denunciatory and culpable display between the gushing waters of the  ‘large and the small’ debate. The policy interventions guiding small hydropower development and the renewable energy strategy of the 10th Plan are discussed. The small hydropower development programme in the State as well as the justification of these projects is looked at.

The draft policy on rehabilitation and resettlement is analyzed and the ongoing and completed projects like Kothi, Juthed and Lingti discussed. The district wise details of the project sites being offered for private sector participation and their estimated potential is described. The case study emphasizes the need to view the existing debate in an ‘integrated science of humans’, and in a historical perspective.

Sukha Mukti Abhiyan: A Model for Water Management, Jharkhand by Ramananda Wangkheirakpam & Swati Sresth

The case study describes the water conservation efforts of the Sukha Mukti Abhiyan in the district of Palamau in Jharkhand. The involvement of the villagers and civil society organizations and even some government officials, and the unforeseen stalling of the Palamau experiment is described. Palamau was a success in many ways yet it ‘failed’ to proceed further because the ruling caste, politicians and bureaucracy failed to empathise with the marginalized people of the region. These lessons along with the political map of any region need to be considered before any project gets underway. 

Forest Conservation And Water Harvesting at Bhaonta-Kolyala Villages, Rajasthan, Swati Sresth & Tisha Srivastava

The case study describes the work of Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS), a non-governmental organization involved in rural development and environmental conservation in the Alwar district on forest conservation and water harvesting. The work of the organization in the twin-villages of Bhaonta-Kolyala in Arvari river catchment where the combined efforts of the village community and TBS has worked wonders for the people and ecology of the region is described. Highlighting the visible linkages between forest, water and agriculture, was a major means of motivating the villagers towards conservation. This effort is not only indicative of the potential of local institutions in protecting natural resources but also provides an example of the role NGOs can play in strengthening communities and conservation initiatives.

Pani Panchayat: Poverty Alleviation Through Equity in Water Management, Maharashtra by Ganesh Pangare & Vasudha Pangare

The case study deals with pani panchayats promoted in a drought-prone area of Maharashtra by Gram Gourav Pratishthan. The norms for proper utilization of the water that is made available for irrigation, whether through public cost, or with financial investments by the community is detailed. The study calls for coordinated efforts to be made by the government and the rural community for the effective development and use of surface and ground water resources.

The attempt was to remove inequalities related to water distribution by allocating a basic minimum quantum of water to each family as the first step towards bridging inequalities among the rural poor, especially those who live in resource-poor areas. Acceptance of allocation is better if it is done through a participatory process. Sustainable use of natural resources is possible when the control and management of common resources become the responsibility of the community that depends upon these resources.

The importance of the Pani Panchayat model is that it shows that equity is possible even in resource-poor, drought-prone areas and that it is possible to raise people above the poverty line with assured water for at least one cropping season per year. The Pani Panchayat philosophy should form an integral part of government policies and schemes in the planning and implementation of irrigation and watershed development programmes. 

Mukti Sangharsh – A Movement for Water Distribution, Maharashtra by Seema Kulkarni

The case study on Mukti Sangharsh demonstrates how a radically different and informed position on water comes out of a much broader understanding that the movement has had on a wide spectrum of issues ranging from caste, class and women's oppression, understanding farming practices and participating in contestational politics. The struggle for equitable rights over water has been one of the major liberating forces for the different oppressed groups. Although the movement is quite aware that all exploitation will not end with granting of water rights, it nonetheless sees tremendous potential in surging the struggle ahead through this demand.

The group has articulated its position on how caste, class and gender exploitation has been further aggravated by systematically keeping these groups away from rights to resources, water being a crucial one. The case study takes a quick overview of the innovative aspects of the movement and different organizational strategies that have sustained and enriched it for over two decades such as equitable water distribution, monthly water demand, demand for rehabilitation before construction of dams and water distribution from old dams before construction of new ones.

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Post By: rajshekar