A barren district of Rajasthan is seeing development, thanks to rains last year and flood in 2006
Water turns the tide
Once-parched and barren Barmer is turning over a new leaf. About five years ago, Poona Ram, 45, shifted from this desert district of Rajasthan to Gujarat in search of work. He was unable to support his family at a place that could not give him employment. But Poona Ram returned. It was water that brought him back.
In 2010, this part of The Thar saw rains as never before. Rainfall was recorded 98 per cent more than the average of the past 50 years. This gave agriculture a sudden boost and development became the keyword.
Ram, who earlier lugged salt sacks at the Kandla port in Gujarat and made Rs 20 to Rs 40 a day, is now farming matira (a form of watermelon) and gwar (fodder for livestock) in his village. He sells matira seeds at Rs 45 per kg and gwar at Rs 22 per kg. Matira seeds are used to make a variety of snacks. The oil extracted from it is used for cooking. “Water has washed away my days of misery,” he says.
Like Ram, many who shifted to Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana have now returned to till their land. Ground water level in Barmer city and some blocks of Barmer district have increased by more than 10 metres, helping farmers to sink tubewells for farming.
Forty-year-old Devraj, once a labourer in Kawas village in Barmer, is now thinking of getting his daughter married in a flourishing household. The 1.5-hectare land at the back of his house that lied barren now grows vegetables and pomegranates. With these he can support his family of five.
Similar is the story of 60-year-old Chetan Ram Kumar of the same village. His 1.5-hectare land gives two crops a year. “I am happy that now I can live a life of dignity,” he says. The land has given Devraj and Chetan money to sink tubewells to irrigate it.
A long sufferer of acute water shortage, Barmer’s district administration has introduced projects to save water. It is building infrastructure for rainwater harvesting.
As many as 47,779 tankas have been constructed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). Tankas are small well-like structures made of concrete, cement and sand. During months when it does not rain, government water tankers fill them up.
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