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This village in Mandvi taluka of Gujarat's Kachchh district has embarked on rainwater harvesting and wm quite recently. For the past 10-12 years, the residents have been facing a drinking water crisis. "Even officials of the Geological Survey of India failed to get water from a borewell a few years ago. They left this area never to come back. But we cannot leave. We have to live here and we have to find our own solutions," says Bhimji Premji Chaudhury, president of the Gram Vikas Mandal (gvm , the village development group) of Gandhigram. The groundwater table has fallen below the sea level due to overextraction. The seawater has now seeped into the underground aquifers, making them saline.
At present, Gandhigram is supplied drinking water through pipelines. But the villagers do not know how long they will get this water. They want to be on the safe side.
Last year, they took a bank loan to construct their own check dams. "We borrowed Rs 15 lakh from a local person and took an additional loan of Rs 5 lakh from a bank. We have also contributed Rs 5 lakh to the project in the form of shramadan (voluntary labour)," according to gvm members. Six months ago, the residents constructed a dam on the Khari river which flows nearby. There are about 400 people in the village, of which 25-30 people have migrated this year due to the drought. The village has decided to reserve whatever water is left in the dams for drinking water. Apart from the dams, the people of Gandhigram have also undertaken a micro-watershed project. The drda is carrying out a watershed project in Gandhigram with the Shri Vivekanand Research and Training Institute as the implementing agency.
Lalji Vishram Chaudhury, the 68-year-old chairperson of the watershed committee, says: "We have received Rs 28 lakh from the government. With the help of this money we have constructed 4 big dams, 30 small dams and plugged 31 nullah s." He says the results are showing: "Gradually, we are getting more returns. From one acre (0.405 ha), we can now fetch Rs 1,000-2,000, which was impossible a few years ago. With the help of water harvesting structures, we have around 400 ha of cultivable land, most of which was barren."