To bring back traditional water conservation methods and restore groundwater level, a man set off on a mission to establish a network of water bodies across the Chamkot village in Uttarakhand. Knocking door to door, Dwarika Prasad Semwal requested people to dig simple pits near their homes to facilitate storing rainwater. After seven months of Semwal's perseverance and collective efforts with the villagers, a total of 3,500 water bodies have come up over an area of 3 sqm in the village.
However, it was not an easy journey as not many villagers were initially enthusiastic about the idea, and moving ahead with the initiative required a lot of permission and convincing the authorities.
Restoring Water For Tomorrow
'Kal Ke Liye Jal' (Water for tomorrow) is the name that Semwal rightly gave for his door-to-door campaign. Taking the message to the villagers alone did not do the trick in the campaign, as the response was rather lukewarm. Semwal nudged the villagers to make small but significant contributions in saving water, recharging the receding groundwater table, and setting up a pond for birds and animals as a means to quench their thirst. Having noticed that there was no large-scale participation, Semwal switched his approach interestingly.
He began asking people to dig water bodies in memory of their dear ones or to mark an important day in the family. Bringing momentum to the campaign, Semwal showed the way by digging two water pits in memory of his two nephews, and soon enough, people followed the cue. Connecting the campaign with sentimental elements struck a chord with the villagers, and he started recording larger participation from the people.
A report by The Print quoted him saying, "I am satisfied that our efforts are bearing fruit. As many as 3,500 ponds or water pits have come up already in Chamkot village, and the process continues."
Way Forward In Water Conservation
As the next phase of the campaign, Semwal plans to dig up about 1,000 ponds around Dehradun. This would bring about a sustainable solution to the receding groundwater levels that continue to cause concern among the residents and experts. This goal seems achievable with the increased participation seen over the months.
At least 70 women volunteers from the 'Ganga Sakhi Sangathan' joined the campaign, and together they have dug up 3,500 ponds. The body's president, Mahendri Chamoli, also said that the group looks forward to extending the activities to new areas and resolving the long lying issue of the water crisis. Many among the villagers too share this emotion and have said that "This initiative has given us a chance to honour our forefathers and fulfil a duty to society."
Beyond digging pits, many members have also voluntarily pitched in contributions of ₹50 every month to fund the campaign. The campaign runs with this flexibility, where Semwal believes that "If the participants lift a spade and a shovel to dig a pit, that's enough." They also have to accommodate space constraints as the average size of ponds or water pits is supposed to be at least three to five feet wide and 1.5 feet deep.
Semwal, who also happens to be the head of the Himalayan Paryavaran Jadibooti Agro Sansthan, has expanded this initiative to the forests to ensure water availability to the wild animals. This would considerably reduce instances of man-animal conflicts and would also help in increasing the green cover and controlling forest fires.
However, expanding the project towards the forest regions would require a lot more resources as well as permission from the authorities. Earlier on Semwal's request, one pond was dug in the forest on Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami's birthday with his permission. Taking it ahead from there as a larger initiative would require several relaxations of laws, and Semwal and his team are hoping to acquire permission for it soon.
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