By Satyavan Saurabh
In summer there is a massive water crisis across India; Given this problem, under the Amrit Mahotsav of Independence, the Haryana Government has started work vigorously to develop the Johad ponds of the state as Amrit Sarovar to save the ponds and johars which are losing their existence in their villages. This Amrit Sarovar will prove to be a boon for water conservation as well as for the farmers. Provision will also be made for irrigation with the water of these Amrit Sarovar. Under this scheme, 1650 ponds of Haryana state will be developed as Amrit Sarovar by August 15, 2023. In the initial phase of this program, Chief Minister Manohar Lal launched the scheme of 111 Amrit Sarovar in the state through the online system.
Their best efforts in the form of ponds and step-wells for the conservation of water and the gift of ancestors have been engulfed in the memories of the past. The biggest reason behind this has been the apathy of the government. Due to this these dry ponds and step-wells are not used by the people for water. Rather, they are doing it in the form of playing cards by sitting under the shady trees on their banks of them. The indifference of the villagers towards the ponds that have been deserted for decades has also gone home. The decreasing days of rain have also proved to be a curse for the ponds and step-wells. This is the reason that today the ponds and johads in villages across the country are dry due to lack of water. Due to this, neither the footsteps of animals are heard till these johads and ponds nor man is seen following their path.
Given all this, the Central Government launched the AMRUT scheme on April 24, 2022, on Panchayati Raj Day. This scheme will be run till 15th August 2023. Under this scheme, 1650 ponds in the state will be developed as Amrit Sarovar and 75-75 ponds in each district will be made Amrit Sarovar. This scheme will beautify the villages and will help in conserving water. Today the condition of the village ponds is very pathetic and the water of the ponds is overflowing and flowing on the roads and the ponds are not able to conserve even the rainwater. Keeping all these aspects in mind, the Amrit Sarovar Yojana has been started. Irrigation work will also be done through this scheme and rainwater will also be conserved.
Water scarcity in India has come not from insufficient supply but from the way we manage the water we have. Agriculture uses 78 percent of India’s water, and uses it very inefficiently. About two-thirds of the water used for irrigation comes from groundwater. Heavy power subsidies for farmers to pump groundwater and the fact that groundwater is largely unregulated have led to a steady explosion in the use of groundwater through tubewells for irrigation over the past several decades. Extensive digging of borewells to meet the demand deficit leads to increased but unaccounted use of groundwater.
Urban India’s inefficiency in water use stems from a general condition of inadequate, outdated, and dilapidated distribution networks, inefficient operations, inadequate metering, incomplete billing and collection, and poor governance. Another source of inefficiency comes from not treating wastewater and using recycled water for special uses such as gardening and flushing toilets. Low pricing of urban water also contributes to wasteful use. If something costs less, users will use more of it.
A political settlement between the Center and the states are needed to jointly address India’s water-saving challenges. There have also not been many attempts to dissuade farmers from growing water-intensive crops such as paddy, sugarcane, and banana when it is widely known that agriculture consumes 80% of freshwater. In the desert areas of Rajasthan, the importance of water is like that of God. The villagers here make every effort to save every drop of this precious resource.
Ponds are the easiest way to conserve water in rural areas of the Nagaur district of Rajasthan. The remarkable fact about these ponds is that many of these ponds are centuries old and have been preserved only through the efforts of the villagers. No river flows through the Nagaur district and groundwater is also not potable. In such circumstances, villagers have found effective ways to conserve and use rainwater. To save rainwater, tanks for personal use and ponds for community use have been created in the houses. Even today these ponds are the primary source of water for the villagers of Nagaur.
Every decision regarding ponds is taken collectively by the villagers. Every village has implemented certain rules for the conservation of ponds. Those who litter the pond are not tolerated, emphasis is laid on keeping the catchment area free from encroachment. It is strictly forbidden to enter the pond wearing shoes. Apart from this, bathing, washing clothes, and bathing cattle are also prohibited in the pond. There is no restriction on taking water from the pond for home, but water from the pond cannot be taken for sale.
Barring a few villages across the country, most are where ponds are not maintained properly and they dry up quickly, forcing residents to look for other sources. Now the Amrit Sarovar Yojana of the Haryana Government has given new hope to the entire country in preserving the empty and drying ponds and the villagers of Hariyan are proud of it. Their active participation in protecting their water sources is a great example for other water-scarce regions.
(Author is a research scholar, poet, independent journalist and columnist. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)