Water warriors

Traditional water harvesters recount their success stories

Published: Sunday 15 July 2001

Water warriors

A lot has been written on India's vast and ancient experience in rainwater harvesting. But no concrete effort has been made to use these traditional innovations. There is no village in India which cannot meet its drinking water needs if it adopts the kundi technology developed by the people of Rajasthan's Thar desert. The technology is very simple. One can take a piece of land and artificially slope it in a way that any water falling in this catchment area runs into a well in the centre or a side of the land. The well can be closed and the owner can draw water from it whenever needed.

Its potential is remarkable. Even if there was only 100 mm of rain in a year, which is the rainfall expected in some of the driest districts of Rajasthan and Ladakh, a one hectare (ha) catchment will provide one million litre of water a year. An individual does not need more than 2.5 litre a day for drinking and cooking. Thus, 1,100 people can meet their critical water needs even in the worst desert environment with just one ha of land.

When it comes to the Indian sub-continent, given the delay in implementing plans to conserve natural resources, people prefer to depend on themselves. Water Warriors is a tale of individual efforts that can act as a precursor to bring a shift in peoples attitudes regarding conservation of natural resources, particularly water.

The story is about ordinary men with extraordinary will in the context of water harvesting. Initial failures did not deter these men of steel who in most cases have faced rebellion from their own people. Today, they have done the real work by not only eradicating water problems but also influencing the economic conditions of the people. The village folk has stopped migrating, thanks to the economic boom water harvesting has brought-in.

A workshop was organised by the Centre for Science and Environment ( cse ) at India Habitat Centre from March 23-24 in which 60 villagers from 60 different villages of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Bihar participated. Given below are profiles of some of these unique individuals.


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