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With its low rainfall, western Rajasthan might seem like a prime candidate for drought, but the combination of old age wisdom and new age techniques have helped Barmer access fresh water continuously.

Women in bright, colourful clothes carrying pots on their heads -- this is how popular media often depicts the women of rural Rajasthan. This is what I expected to see in the Bakhasar region of Barmer district, which borders the famous salt desert, the Rann of Kutch. The groundwater is often saline and rainfall does not exceed 250 mm. Last year the monsoon was erratic yielding even lesser water. Water sources were not replenished and hence dried up faster.

So why isn't the lead image of this piece one of women walking miles to get water? Because that's not what I saw.

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News this week

Rajendra Singh is the 2015 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate

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Yes, say the authors, but not before these tanks are recognized in a manner befitting their past glory: as prized resources that provided water to the city even though it had no perennial rivers.

Madurai, Tamil Nadu's second largest city, is now filled with buildings and roads which are eating into its age old network of tanks and canals. This change did not happen overnight. It began in the late 19th century by the British when they merged several hamlets to establish their headquarters in the region.

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Policy matter this week

Opposition to the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill

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Does reducing open defecation have any significant improvement in health outcomes? Sumeet Patil of NEERMAN discusses this in an interview with India Water Portal.

With over 620 million defecating in the open in India, do we need a new approach to curb this practice? The force of habit is such that even households with toilets have around forty percent of adults defecating in the open. But, does curbing open defecation necessarily lead to significant improvements in child health outcomes like diarrhoea, anaemia, parasite infection and growth?

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The science behind groundwater isn't well understood but how can this be changed so that people manage their water better?

Groundwater isn't understood very well, especially in hilly areas where springs seem to appear and vanish of their own accord. However, as science tells us, there's no effect without a cause, and understanding the reason why water flows where it does can ensure optimal use of this natural resource to support life and livelihood. 

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Cholera, a possibly life threatening infection, spreads through water and food contaminated with feces. So, how hard is it to contain or prevent the infection?

Vibrio cholerae is responsible for 100,000 -120,000 deaths annually, worldwide. [1] Commonly found in ponds, rivers and brackish areas, the bacterium finds its way into humans through contaminated food and water. And the result? Cholera. Characterized by severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration, cholera is capable of killing the affected individual within a few hours, if left unattended [1]. India recorded 5,155 cases of cholera in 2010 alone [2].

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Manayali village in Maharashtra not only became water secure but also managed to provide a solution to a small Banjara community that lives 3 km away from it -- through community participation.

Santosh Gavale, a resident of Manyali village in Umarkhed tehsil of Yavatmal district, is a happy man now. The village, which has faced an increasing water crisis over the years, is now water sufficient because it manages its water resources well and shares it equitably. Santosh managed to do this for his village. 

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The concepts of System of Rice Intensification help farmers adopt practices based on their local conditions. Farmers, and an SRI expert in Chhattisgarh, show how it has worked for them.

Muneswar and more than 170 farmers in Ambikapur, Chhattisgarh have no regrets after shifting over from traditional agricultural methods of farming to the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method. Why would they? Most of them have been overwhelmed by the kind of returns they have got compared to their investments.

"The crop yield has increased to more than two and half times, and we are getting better returns," says Kisan Naihar Sai, an SRI beneficiary.

What is System of Rice Intensification (SRI)?

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The residents of Gobariya village built two ponds for livestock rearing and horticulture, but a chance discovery led to them becoming a quicker and better income generator.

The Bhuiyas, a group of people who belong to the Scheduled Castes in Jharkhand and Bihar, have historically been landless foragers -- a fact reflected in their name which means 'of the earth'.

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