|| CSE's eighth
paani yatra (water pilgrimage) travelled to Ahmednagar, Maharashtra,
understanding the remarkable works of the Watershed Organisation Trust
(WOTR), Ralegan Siddhi village and Hivre Bazar village. On October
29 - November 2, a group of 23 persons from across the country with
different professional backgrounds participated. They represented
government, non-governmental organisations, funding agency and, industry.
There were students and individuals too. (See box: Yatris share)
CSE's presentation on its water campaign at WOTR's training centre
in village Darewadi, about 80 kms away from Ahmednagar city, marked
the beginning of the yatra. Later, 'Harvest of rain', a 48 minutes
documentary, showing the rainwater harvesting practices prevalent
in India was screened. WOTR also introduced the group with their activities
and achievements.The first day ended with an hour of deliberations
between the yatris and the members of Darewadi village watershed committee
and self help groups on varied facets of community-based water management
|Meet the visionaries
Fr Hermann Bacher, chairperson, Watershed Organisation Trust
"Our main objective as a non-governmental organisation
is to co-ordinate with the government and, work for the community's
Anna Hazare, social reformer, Ralegaon Siddhi village
"Adherence to - nasbandi (vasectomy), nasabandi (prohibition),
charaibandi (no open grazing), Kurhadbandi (no tree felling)
and shramdan (voluntary labour), can only ensure development."
Popatrao Pawar, sarpanch, Hivre Bazar village
An ardent follower of Anna Hazare believes, "Development
process needs both state and society to work together. However,
the society should always be on the drivers' seat and work responsibly."
Village Devgaon and Shilveri in Akole block, Ahmednagar, was the first
stop, where works ended this year. This is a high rainfall zone with
undulating terrain. Following the WOTR's ridge to valley approach,
both the villages enjoy cordial relationship with the forest department
(FD). This approach makes it essential to begin watershed works from
the ridge, an area that normally comes under FD's jurisdiction. As
per a government order, 1992, WOTR has got exclusive rights to work
in the reserve forest areas of Maharashtra.
While walking with the group from ridge towards valley, the villagers
shared the processes behind the works shown viz., plantations on panchayat
land and soil and water conservation works. Presence of water at check
dam convinced the yatris about the value of several low cost structures
like vegetative bunds. The functioning and post project maintenance
arrangements were discussed during a two hour meeting with the villagers
and the FD.
Next day, the group explored Darewadi village on foot. Everyone enjoyed
the walk as there was something new to learn at every step. The level
of transparency in the works done was evident through the map and
tables on the wall of the village school. After returning back to
the training centre, the group had an interactive session with Fr
Bacher and Fr Robert from WOTR, who shared their experiences of mobilising
communities for work.
"Paani he jeevan hai. Es ka sadupyog karna chaihya. Hivre
Bazar mein loogo ne khod kam kar ke paani ko paida keya hai."
Satpal Singh, Sarpanch, Haryana
"Paani yatra was inspiring. I understood that a few drops
of water could change the lifestyle of an area if it is wisely
conserved and judiciously utilised."
P Biswas, Deputy Magistrate and Collector, West Bengal
Next stop was Ralegan Siddhi, where the yatris stayed at village's
training centre run by Hind Swaraj Trust, a village-based NGO. The
day started at the village's percolation tank, where the group was
briefed about its journey from poverty to prosperity. Plantations,
staggered trenches, earthen bunds, gully plugs, gabian structures
and kolapur-type bandharas impressed everyone. The sight of water
trickling between two structures and high water levels in wells left
them speechless. A visit to village's school for the drop outs, drinking
water scheme and media centre introduced them with other activities.
A two and half meeting with Anna Hazare and his mother inspired many
to work for their community, selflessly.
Hivre Bazar was the last stop. Popat Pawar, an enterprising sarpanch
guided the visit, while showing yatris the works, which got Maharashtra
its first National Productivity Award. The initiatives of Pawar to
nurture the second rank of leadership in the village, unlike in Ralegan
left the visitors satisfied that the works will sustain.