Marusthali (Thar Desert)

There are many unsung heroes amidst us who go about their good work silently. Chattar Singh is one such hero who has revived traditional water management system of the parched Jaisalmer villages.

“Can you see the alternating bands of light and shadow in the sky?” Chattar Singh asks me. When I nod in affirmation, he continues, “This is Mogh. There are clouds where the sun is setting right now. If we get a favourable wind, these clouds will reach here and we may get rain by night. In desert, people live by such clues from nature.”  

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'Jal Aur Samaj' takes the readers through the pond culture of Bikaner that nurtured its past and holds promise for its future.

A scarcity of something makes it special. That’s the reason why Rajasthan has always sanctified water much more than any other place in India. Low rainfall and saline groundwater turned people into great conservers who not only built beautiful and durable structures but also developed sustainable practices around them.

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Rao Jodha Desert Park in Jodhpur is known for its varied flora. Its resilience and beauty make a walk in this park truly enjoyable.

Rain has just abated but the clouds are threatening to burst again. “Not a good time to visit, what with reducing light and imminent showers,” I tell myself. “Don’t worry, it would be a light drizzle, if at all,” the person at the ticket counter assures. My guide, Sachin, a young, stout man with a winning smile, arrives from a tea break armed with binoculars and a slim guide book. “Monsoon is a very good season to visit this place. You will see lots of greens,” he promises.

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Taankas are trusted allies in the harsh weather of Rajasthan, but the focus is shifting now onto personal assets rather than community resources.

We were driving down the long desert road that runs parallel to the Indo-Pakistan border in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. There was little else to see except the surrounding sand dunes and desert grass. That's where I saw a ‘taanka--a raised platform with a small opening to fetch water from its womb--for the first time.

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Ghadsisar pond in Jaisalmer holds many tales of dedication and love from an era gone by. It also symbolises how water was valued over caste and class.

Western Rajasthan is dotted by thousands of ponds, many of which are architectural wonders. Among these, Gadsisar (also called Gadisar) stands out. Besides its unparalleled expanse and architecture, the pond narrates tales of sacrifice, dedication and ingenuity but more importantly, it upholds water as being superior to any class and caste divide.

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Aravali Institute of Management in Jodhpur shows how high soil salinity, which eats into cement structures, can be dealt with through harvesting water and using native plant species.

As you drive from Jodhpur to Jaipur, the barren and desolate terrain underscores the harsh environment. The land is bleached due to high soil salinity, and there are no water sources in sight. This guarantees that there is no vegetation other than weeds like Israeli babool (akesia tortlis). 

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Only a few of Bikaner's over 100 ponds are well-maintained today, some thanks to the efforts of citizens, and another due to rooftop rainwater being channeled. Could the remaining get as lucky?

Water connects food and religion. Religious ceremonies often involve taking a dip in a water body, and any food or meal is incomplete without water. The same two things - food and religion - stand out in Bikaner. While hot kachoris and samosas line street stalls, Mata Karni Devi and Baba Ramdev (not the yoga guru) shower their blessings from billboards and wall paintings. Ironically though, Bikaner is not rich in water since it is on the western side of Rajasthan. As unlikely a candidate as it is to be a religious and food hub, it only became so because of its ponds.

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Anupam Mishra talks about how the desert societies of Rajasthan have managed their scarce water resources for over 1000 years.

Author and conservationist, Anupam Mishra has spent decades promoting water conservation and management. Through his travels across various states of India, he has been studying and teaching the time-tested techniques of rainwater harvesting. His landmark books on the subject of water like 'Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talaab' (The ponds are still as good as gold, 1993) and 'Rajasthan Ki Rajat Boondein' (Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan, 1995) have gained him worldwide recognition. A popular public speaker on environmental issues, MIshra is known for his wisdom and wit.

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बाड़मेर। भारतीय संस्कृति का प्रतिबिंब लोककलाओं में झलकता है। इन्हीं लोककलाओं में कठपुतली कला भी शामिल है। यह देश की सांस्कृतिक धरोहर होने के साथसाथ प्रचारप्रसार का सशक्त माध्यम भी है, लेकिन आधुनिक सभ्यता के चलते मनोरंजन के नित नए साधन आने से सदियों पुरानी यह कला अब लुप्त होने के कगार पर है।

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The Government of Rajasthan (GoR) has recently come up with a strategy for rural sanitation based on its experience of implementing Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) in the state. In Rajasthan, TSC was initially launched in four districts in 1999 and scaled up in all the thirty two districts in 2004-05.

Although significant progress has been made in terms of individual household toilet coverage in the state, usage by the population is still low at 12.9 per cent (DLHS 2007-08). Access to toilets for schools and angawandies has seen a marked increased but rural solid and liquid waste management has seen little or no attention.

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