Using music to build water positive villages

Women drawing water from a village well. Prior to watershed development and integrated water management, scarcity of water was a way of life for the people of Kumbharwadi (Image: WOTR)
Women drawing water from a village well. Prior to watershed development and integrated water management, scarcity of water was a way of life for the people of Kumbharwadi (Image: WOTR)

An inspiration called Kumbharwadi in the rain-shadow region of Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra is one of the many successful stories of water stressed villages that were transformed by Paani Ka Teeka’s knowledge partner – Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR), a Pune based non-profit.

Kumbharwadi in 1998 - A bleak scenario

All the 171 households in the village and the livestock in the Kumbharwadi village depended on just one well for their drinking water and other domestic needs in 1998. In summers, this lone well would often go dry and villagers depended on 25 to 30 government supplied water tankers in a year to meet their domestic needs. While the average annual rainfall in the village is around 476 mm per year (contrast this with Maharashtra’s overall average of 1,000 mm), in a year of drought, which was and is a regular feature, it can come down to between 150-250 mm.

Even in times of good rainfall, agricultural production could suffice for just 5 to 6 months. Farmers cultivated rainfed subsistence crops such as pearl millet during the monsoon and sorghum in winter. During the rest of the year, this degraded landscape and low levels of agricultural productivity forced its inhabitants to migrate to brick kilns and neighboring cities like Pune in desperate search of wage labour. Drought was a regular phenomenon.

Watershed development

A Jal Sevak, explaining the concept of village level water budgeting to the Kumbharwadi villagers (Image: WOTR)

In this bleak scenario, the people of Kumbharwadi observed the work being implemented in the neighbouring village of Darewadi and could see the many positive impacts of watershed development on the social and economic life of that village. Darewadi, which hitherto experienced severe water shortages, had been transformed by watershed development; water shortages were no longer an issue even in summer.

This convinced Kumbharwadi that it could be the answer to their problems as well. At their request, in 1998, WOTR initiated a watershed development project in Kumbharwadi as a means to conserve soil and water along watershed lines; to recharge ground water aquifers; catch water across landscapes; and build resilience of the livelihoods resource base.

The primary objectives of watershed development in Kumbharwadi were to increase water availability, income, productivity and livelihood security; strengthen the indigenous resource base of land and forests and promote women’s empowerment and gender equity. It was one of WOTR’s earliest participatory watershed development projects.

Building local capacities

The first phase of the project started in 1998 and successfully finished in 2002. WOTR remained in contact with the village through informal ad-hoc visits and visitors interested to see the ‘on-ground impact’ of watershed development.  In the next phase, between 2012 and 2017, in order to build resilience to climate change, WOTR undertook compartment bunding on 130 ha, constructed 3 earthen nallabunds, 2 check dams and 10 farm ponds with the aim of conserving water and recharging the water table .

Under the Water Stewardship Initiative (WSI) launched in 2015 to enhance water impounding capacities, and increase water use efficiency, an additional 600,000 (6 lakh) litres of additional water storage capacity has been created by desilting a check dam and 20 million (2 crore) litres of water been brought under collective management.

A view of the agricultural fields in Kumbharwadi village, post watershed development (Image: WOTR)



Social and economic impact: Agriculture

Follow-up impact assessments that were carried out in 2002 and August 2018 show dramatic and sustained improvements in many aspects of life, post the watershed development work. In particular, land productivity, income, standard of living and land use patterns have all improved. The following table brings out the visible impact of WOTR’s work on the water availability and agricultural scenario in Kumbharwadi. These statistics are based on focus group discussions.


Social and economic impact: Income and standard of living

Watershed development has also substantially improved economic and social indicators, including quality of life. The following table shows the impact on ownership of assets, dairy production and daily wages paid for agricultural labour.  

Paani Ka Teeka collaborates for the cause

Paani Ka Teeka is an initiative of IdeaHive Media Pvt. Ltd., a social enterprise, created with a vision of building initiatives that enable a better community around us. It partnered with Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR), as its knowledge partner, who has pioneered in watershed efforts, both directly and through partner NGOs, in 3,500 villages across 8 states of India to create the national water movement. 

Paani Ka Teeka’s project goals include integrated watershed management encompassing livelihood creation and behavioral change. Paani Ka Teeka’s vision is to transform about 1000+ Kumbharwadi like villages through integrated watershed development with the support of its knowledge partner, WOTR. To amplify this cause, what could be more apt than getting the support of musicians to create a fundraising movement within the country and talk the language of water through the platform of music.

“It’s a blessing to be able to get the support of industry leaders and domain experts who have believed in our vision with Paani ka Teeka. The objective of the campaign is to make this project a citizens’ movement and work towards a water-secure India,” says Dilip Moorkoth, Founder Paani Ka Teeka and the Director of IdeaHive Media Pvt Ltd.

"We are delighted that integrated watershed management which has helped transform many villages, will now enter a new phase with support coming in from India's leading artists who have come together to extend support to the water stressed villages of India.  We are happy to collaborate as a knowledge and implementing partner with the vision of Paani Ka Teeka and we look forward to this exciting journey in the times to come," says Crispino Lobo, Co-Founder and Managing Trustee of WOTR.

“Music has the capacity to bridge cultures and create a momentum. If you look back in time, artists have always risen to the times and needs of the nation. It gives me utmost pleasure to come together along with my music industry friends and to team up yet again with Piyush Pandey. The vision created by IdeaHive for the Paani Ka Teeka project is definitely a great roadmap to a national water movement,” says veteran musician Louiz Banks. 


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of India Water Portal.

Post By: Amita Bhaduri