Combating drought

Published: Tuesday 15 July 1997

Combating drought

Oxfam (India), a relief and development organisation, has launched a massive relief and sustainable development programme in the drought-hit areas of Orissa. The Rs 1.5 crore programme will be implemented in the worst-affected villages of Bolangir, Kalahandi and Nuapara districts, with the help of local NGOs and community-based organisa- tions. It focuses on strengthening the productive capacity of communities by providing them agricultural inputs. The other components of the Oxfam initiative will include enhancing the state government's cash-for-work programme and improving water availability through the creation of smaller tanks within large tanks which collect maximum water before evaporation.

According to Oxfam, consistent neglect of traditional irrigation systems has led to the severe spell of drought in the state. Besides scarce rainfall, economic deprivation and extreme exploitation of the people were also responsible for their suffering and largescale migration. Surprisingly, in most of the drought- hit areas, water was available between 8-10 feet, says Oxfam. A survey conducted by two of its partner NGOs, Anchalik Jana Sewa Anushthan and jagruta Shramik Sangathan, has revealed that only one in 92 children surveyed was found to be well nourished. The survey covered four villages of Bongomunda block of Bolangir. Seventy-four children Were found to be severely undernourished, with 23 of them suffering from third degree malnutrition.

jagdish Pradhan of Sahvagi Vikas Abhian, an Oxfam partner organisation working in some of the worst affected villages, says that if traditional irrigation systems consisting of small water harvesting structures are improved, much of the suffering of people can be reduced. Although rainfall this year in western Orissa was below average, the inability of people to conserve rain water and harness the ground water had worsened the crisis.

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