For almost all of us reading this, availability of water round the clock, around the year is a given. It might be impossible for us to relate to the woes of people in villages of the state with limited access to secure sources of water for drinking, for livestock and for farming.
India’s largest state with one-tenth of its area is endowed with only 1% of the country’s water. Over the last few decades, increasing population and agricultural and industrial activity have resulted in ground water depletion at an alarming rate.
“We needed to make our villages water self-reliant”, says the Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje. “We decided to think out-of-the-box… to marry scientific planning and traditional rainwater harvesting practices and arrive at sustainable, hyper-local solutions.” she said.
This is how Mukhya Mantri Jal Swablamban Abhiyan (MJSA) was born. It involved scientifically designed, area specific, micro and minor level interventions with village as a unit to conserve rainwater.
This project is unparalleled in its approach and unprecedented in its scale. Under Phase I of MJSA, work was taken up in more than 3500 villages in all the 33 districts. Close to one lakh water storage structures such as anicuts, percolation tanks and trenches were constructed to conserve rainwater, benefitting 41 lakh people and 45 lakh livestock. Many traditional rainwater-harvesting structures were rejuvenated. Not only have these resulted in storage of water, but led to recharging ground water aquifers in these villages. During the rains, a massive plantation drive was taken up around these structures and more than 28 lakh saplings were planted.
Apart from drinking water security, availability of water for farming and soil conservation (erosion of top-soil due to water runoff is a common problem), means increase in agricultural output.
Another unique aspect of MJSA is community participation. A true people’s movement, it brought together people from all walks of life-students, servicemen, police, government employees, public representatives, professionals, religious endowments – for construction works.
Work on the second phase is being taken up in 4200 villages and 66 towns and will be followed by plantation of 1 crore saplings.