I visited Kachner Tanda No. 1 in mid November 2010, one stop among several during two weeks of photographic documentation of drinking water, sanitation and watershed development projects in rural villages in two Indian states. My tour was sponsored by Peer Water Exchange and hosted by three non-governmental organizations. My host for the visit to Kachner Tanda was the Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR), which has been working with the village since 2008 and has an 18-year history of doing good works in Maharashtra and four other Indian states.
Kachner Tanda is one of eight hamlets comprising a Banjara tribal community. The Banjara tribe originated in Rajasthan state. They regularly traded with people in Maharashtra and some eventually settled there. This hamlet consists of 50 families totaling 330 people. WOTR began doing watershed development projects in Kachner Tanda in 2008. About 70 percent of work has been completed and it’s expected to be finished in another year, according to Thomas Palghadmal, manager of WOTR’s social programs, who accompanied me on my visit as guide and translator.
The villagers are farmers and grow food grains, cotton, sorghum and wheat. Because they rely on rainwater for irrigation in a drought-prone area, crop yields aren’t sufficient to provide a year-round income. Many villagers cut sugar cane for five months each year once their own crops are in.
Nanusimg Jesu Jadhar, village headman, explained that the people decided to work with WOTR on land treatments to capture and harvest more rainwater that otherwise ran off the land. The goal is to recharge the underground water table and raise the level of groundwater so that more water is available for crops and livestock.
According to WOTR’s web site, “The process of watershed development consists of harvesting rainwater wherever it falls, regenerating the environment, increasing green cover and adopting sustainable land husbandry practices in the watershed. It involves making bunds, digging trenches, building gullies, etc in a way that will arrest the rapid flow of water downhill from slopes to the ground. This is necessary because during the few days of rainfall, the tendency of water is to gush down the slopes and also take the top soil cover along with it. This means that there is no water conservation and precious fertile soil is lost too. When this flow is reduced or made to go through steps, water percolates into the ground at various spots and increases the underground water table. At the bottom of the hills, it collects to form water reservoirs. And while flowing down slowly it helps turn patches of land green.”
Also in WOTR’s arsenal of watershed-restoration techniques is planting trees of various types to stabilize slopes. Villagers must agree to stop chopping down trees for firewood and in some places not to graze their cattle on the new grass that grows to also help keep soil in place and slow runoff.
The village contributes labor and 20 percent of the total project cost.
FROM DISTANT WELLS TO DOORSTEP TAPS: DRINKING WATER TRANSFORMATION
WOTR completed a drinking water project for the village in June 2010 that eventually brought fresh water to the doorsteps of each household. Village women formed a committee to direct the project. Shambilel Rathor, secretary of the committee, said that Kachner Tanda suffered acute drinking water shortages in the summer. Women from several villages would walk a few kilometers to a single well that still had water. Fetching water from distant wells is an arduous daily task that saps time and energy from other tasks. The water wasn’t always clean.
Just like the watershed work, the village contributed 20 percent of the cost of the new drinking water project. An existing older well was dug out as a water source. A 20,000-liter water storage tank was built and 2,400 feet of pipe was laid to bring the water into the village. Separate connections were installed to pipe water to each home as outdoor taps.
The villagers must pay for the maintenance of the drinking water system decided to contribute a 20RS “water tax” monthly to pay the salary of one man who oversees the work Chlorine powder is added to the water in the storage tank and villagers use a few drops of sanitizing chemicals in each pot of water that comes out of the tap.
I asked Shambilel what difference this has made in villagers lives. “We’re very happy. The women spend less time fetching water. We used to spend two to three hours a day on this chore. Now we can fill up their containers quickly and we no longer have to store clean water. We now use this time for other household work.”
The village next wants to install toilets and bathrooms and receive some education on better agricultural practices.