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Rain drain

HARVEST OF RAIN.VHS (PAL) . colour . 48 mins . English . Directed by Sanjay Kak . 1995

By Sayeed Naqvi
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

HARVEST of Rain, conceived by Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain, is a cohesive and well-researched film. Its main thrust is the near destruction of traditional methods of storing water as a result of increasing governmental interference. It emphasises the importance of understanding the culture of water and how village societies had for centuries been creating their own reservoirs. Their strength came from an understanding of the soil and their ability to join hands to overcome shortages.

With the coming of the British, many of these traditions ended. The colonial rulers chose to treat the people - who had worked together out of a sense of involvement - as unpaid labour. They legislated to achieve the same and in the process destroyed the community's spirit of togetherness.

The film which starts with colourful glimpses of Rajasthan, goes on to explain that even though water is found in streams, rivers and dams, the main source remains the traditional one, rainwater. The medieval fortress of Chittor is featured in the film. The fortress which once housed 40- 50,000,,people within its walls, was spoken of in the days of yore in these terms, "Chittor may run out of food, but never water." There is a delightful interview with a village mason - the builder of many kunds (reservoirs) - named Rann Singh Ran, who explains the design of kunds by drawing simple patterns with his fingers on the soil. Here is human ingenuity at its best.

We are then taken to a rice-growing area of Karnataka,: which gets rain for rrierely a hundred hours in the entire year. Here too, people have devised their own methods of storing water, since rice needs a constant supply of it. The journey to the Kumaon region of Uttar Pradesh - which is mostly mountainous - is also fascinating. The locals manage mountain streams by channeling water in ways that do not damage crops. Irrigation engineers are often unable to comprehend the skills of these people. On being interviewed, one of the local committee members explained that committees had been formed in order to divide the work of water management among its members. He said, "We belong to different castes but these gatherings keep us together and for 40 years there has been no dispute."

It is not easy for such a system to survive when authority lies in distant hands. Earlier, when autonomy lay with the local people, they were able to share water and check its misuse too. But with the introduction of modern technology, the wealthy farmer with his tubewell gets all the water required for his fields, but what happens to his poorer cousin? With water being pumped round the clock, whatever he could access earlier has dried up.

The film explains how the management of natural resourices has been adversely affected by modern technology and that what the people have learnt over the centuries, they may now be forced to unlearn.

Price: Individual films, Rs 850-Entire series, Rs 2,000

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