Report by OdishaDiary bureau, Sambapur: “India is a water stressed country now. The faulty economic policy that gives priority to unmindful industrialization and unsustainable urbanization is the root cause of it” said Ranjan Panda, Convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha which organized a consultation on “Water Harvesting Systems” to felicitate villagers who have done pioneering works in reviving rain water harvesting systems in the state. “Decentralized systems of rain water harvesting and people’s management of water bodies hold the key to solving water crisis of the country”, he said further.
The function that was organized at Sambalpur today was attended by about 50 people including villagers, civil society representatives and experts. Villagers from 5 districts were felicitated for their work on water harvesting, conservation and management. Villages which were felicitated are Padiabadmal of Sambalpur district, Kharamal of Bargarh district, Birighat of Nuapada district, Baragad of Jharsuguda district and Magarkunda of Sundergarh district.
“We have shown how with community efforts and ownership a perennially drought prone village can be brought back to life. We have revived our traditional systems of water harvesting, protected forests and have practiced organic agriculture to bring back water security to our village”, said Nrushingha Charan Naik of Padiabadmal village. Nrushingha and fellow villagers were felicitated in the function for having successfully revived about 15 traditional water harvesting structures that brought back hundreds of acres of barren land into farming. The villagers were also felicitated by Amir Khan’s Satyameva Jayate programme earlier this year.
Ghanashyam Bhitria of Birighat village in Nuapada district said, “increased dependency on government programmes and formula of government engineers are driving farmers to misery. We have successfully revived traditional knowledge and wisdom in water harvesting and added that with applicable modern technology to revive agriculture and check distressed migration from our village”. The Birighat villagers were also felicitated in the function. “In the work we do the villagers are engineers, contractors, labours and owners. The more we depend on external knowledge and technology, the more impoverished we become”, said Naik.
“Most of our water crisis can be solved if we catch water in our own places. In fact, there is no need of any further big dams in our state”, said Professor Arttarandhu Mishra, an expert on the issue. “Considering we still receive a lot of rainfall, creating sufficient harvesting structures in each village and cities would be sufficient to solve our water crisis”, he said further. “The government is making us to believe that dams are the solutions. However, scientifically first order and second order streams such as Mahanadi and Suktel should not be dammed. We need to create large number of small and minor structures over the third order and fourth order streams”, said Prof. Mishra.
“Villages in western Odisha have traditionally harvested and managed rain water through structures of different sizes suited to the local topography. However, their traditional knowledge and skills have not been recognized. That is spelling disaster for the region which has turned from an agriculturally prosperous region to a drought prone one”, said Panda.
“Not centralized large structures but small and diverse structures ensure water security along with food and nutrition security in the villages”, said octogenarian expert Prof. Durga Prasad Nayak.
Giving example of Nuapada district Mr. Ajit Panda said that “traditional water harvesting systems irrigated about 85 per cent of undivided Kalahandi-Balangir-Sambapur districts upto 1950s. However, after focus shifted to modern and large scale irrigation systems, the current irrigation coverage of Nuapada alone is only about 25%”. “The traditional systems still provide about 9 per cent of irrigation in Nuapada. But these areas are not considered as irrigated in government records. This shows how the traditional knowledge and efforts have been deliberately neglected”, said he further.
The villagers and experts called for a comprehensive surface water body policy for the state and the country that respects traditional knowledge and skills in water harvesting and management, shuns large scale irrigation projects and promotes water sovereign villages and cities.