Bankura (West Bengal), May 30 : Villagers in West Bengal's Bankura District have embarked on a water conservation project to ease water scarcity in the region.
Bankura District is a dry zone, but the only relief from the heat comes during the monsoon when the district receives some showers.
However, backward tribals have been working towards water conservation project that not only has changed their socio-economic status considerably, but also won them a medal from the President of India.
Under the guidance of the Gopalpur Gram Panchayat, villagers are engaged in a mission to conserve water.
The Heerbandh Development Board initiated the water conservation project as the tribals were facing hardship due to acute water scarcity.
Several small tanks or ponds have been dug on the land donated by the tribals themselves after awareness campaigns convincing them about the benefits from the initiative.
Social forestry was the next step in their mission. The area now has several plots with trees yielding shade as well as firewood. These trees were planted and nurtured by the villagers themselves.
"Under '30-40 model', we have made dug small ponds. Mainly, because of this the underground water level has gone up from what it was five years ago. The government's water level monitoring department has been monitoring the water levels here for a long time. They have done a survey and found increase in water levels. Social forestation has also taken place here. Some 150 hectares have been brought under social forestry," said Rabin Mukherjee, Assistant Project Officer, Heerbandh Development Board.
Villagers on their own initiative started digging ponds for which they were also paid under the 100-day employment venture of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).
Gopalpur Gram Panchayat has spent 350,000 rupees to build a check dam with drains and irrigation canal.
The water conserved during seasonal showers was used to irrigate about 100 acres of agriculture land that started yielding two crops a year -first of paddy and then of oil seeds in winter.
With underground water levels registering an upward swing, even the dry rusted tubewells have started functioning.
The success of the project has encouraged villagers in Tilabandh to set up a mango orchard.
The villagers have come together and donated about ten acres of land for 30-40 model for water conservation.
"We want to make a mango orchard. This is a ten-acre plot. We have set up the '30-40 model' here to conserve rain water, so that it does not just flow off. We will use that water for the mango orchard plantation," said Sarit Kumar Duroi, a villager.
The model involves digging small ponds in the mentioned ratio on the land.
When the monsoons come, the rainwater would be harvested in these small ponds and further used to irrigate the entire land.
Villagers are happy that work has already started in this regard. By donating land and labour, they have found means to not only earn a better livelihood, but also contribute significantly towards water conservation and green cover development.