Phase I of Vihigaon Jalashakti Abhiyan completed
Vihiagon, Shahapur, Thane: Women folks of Vihigaon have been daily walking at least a kilo meter to fetch a few pots of potable water. Vihigaon is just few kilometers away from Upper Vaitarana reservoir that supplies water to Mumbai region. These women have been doing this chore over a few generations. However the water level has been going down every year and they started facing severe drought almost for five months of an year. Come October 2015, and women in parts of Vihigaon will not face this problem anymore. As the villagers along with voluntary organizations have launched watershed development work and completed the first phase of this project.
There was a growing need to stop water depletion in a region, where rainfall is heavy but water goes down the drain in abscence of any watershed development work. This dichotomy was experienced by volunteers of Vivekanand Seva Mandal, Dombivli (VSM) for several years. Villagers, unaware about the scientific approach to solve their water woes, had requested VSM volunteers to repair their only well, which used to quench their thirst till the end of every summer. This proved as a trigger for VSM volunteers to approach the problem in a scientific way. They got their technical guide in Dr. Umesh Mundlye of OIKOS Water Management Pvt Ltd.
Bheema Nirgude and Sakru Wagh, residents of Nirgudwadi and Gaothan padas of Vihigaon, in 2014 had requested VSM volunteers to repair two broken wells - one completely collapsed and another on the verge of breaking down. For VSM, it was not the first ever watershed development effort, as the Dombivli-based youth organization had done continuous contour trenching, organized a Water Awareness Yatra (Pani Yatra) and initiated development of a dam in the same village earlier. But this time the severity of problem was more as overall dryness in the region was evident and women used to be the direct sufferers.
There was a need to address this problem squarely, so Dr. Mundlye along with Mandal team and Village elders surveyed the village water bodies and recommended a holistic approach of watershed development work. Dr. Mundlye recommended us to arrest the heavy water flow in Vihigaon by constructing a series of vented bunds, subsurface bunds and strengthen village water wells.
VSM was in search to partner any funding agency for this Jalashakti Abhiyan and Bharat Vikas Parishad willingly came forward to whole-heatedly support us in this initiative. The organization and their (BVP Coastal Region and BVP Dombivli branch) board of trustees and advisors including Shri S.S. Gupta, Shri. Agarwal, Shri. Morwal, Shri. Sharad Madiwale, Shri Vinod Karandikar and Shri Jayant Falke pledged all their funding support behind this noble work without wasting any time.
Vivekanand Seva Mandal, as a planning agency decided that this watershed development work can only be successful with full-fledged participation from villagers. Thus VSM formed Village Watershed Development Committee and rolled out phase I of the plan in partnership with them.
Phase I of Jalashakti Abhiyan was launched on 27th April and included below work:
There were multiple challenges in executing this simple-looking project in village like Vihigaon. They varied from unavailability of equipment, material, skilled labor to a shorter timeline before Monsoon arrival. However we managed to overcome these difficulties with the grace of divine powers and could complete the phase I before arrival of monsoon.
Phase II of Jalashakti Abhiyan will be launched in 2016 and it will include:
Below are the experiences of people who participated in this Abhiyan:
Hemant Gokhale, Leader of Jalashakti Abhiyan and Member of Development Council, Vivekanand Seva Mandal:
"We had emphatically decided to take this project basis willingness of people to participate in this watershed development effort. We stuck to our principles of participatory development and villagers have responded positively. They wholeheartedly volunteered in good numbers and established a solid foundation for next year's phase II extension.
Shri. S.S. Gupta, President, Coastal Prant, Bharat Vikas Parishad:
"All noble work require support of Tan (physical efforts), Man (application of mind) and Dhan (availability of funds). We at Bharat Vikas Parishad Coastal Prant and Bharat Vikas Parishad Dombivli branch saw a dire need to provide sufficient water to the villagers of Vihigaon and when Vivekanand Seva Mandal approached us we readily agreed to support with Dhan (funds). We will continue to fund the subsequent phases of this noble work."
Dr. Umesh Mundlye, Director, OIKOS Water Management Pvt Ltd and Guide and Technical Consultant for the Abhiyan:
"We have taken a holistic approach for the watershed development in this village and planned series of water works considering environmental, topographical and socio-cultural realities. We believe that villagers will get extra water in the small reservoir formed due to a vented bund (weir) and water in the reconstructed wells should sufficiently last till the end of summer. The purpose of the watershed development is to provide sufficient water not only for drinking but also for growing second crop and water for cattle."
Bheema Nirgude, member, Village Watershed Devt.committe (VWDC):
"We requested Mandal's volunteers to help us reconstruct the dilapidated wells in our village. They put up a condition to participate in the work and offer our skills and labor for the same. We formed an informal committee of villagers to oversee the work. We thank Bharat Vikas Parishad and Vivekanand Seva Mandal for this noble help."
Ketan Bondre, President, Vivekanand Seva Mandal, Dombivli:
"It was a project closer to every volunteer's heart as it invovlved making Jivan (water) available to thirsty people and animals. We joined hands with Bharat Vikas Parishad, Dombivli and Coastal Prant and co-created this project with Village watershed devt committee. There was no contractor involved; many vendors provided their services at a nominal rate or free of cost. Our consultant also worked on a pro-bono basis for this noble cause. Our volunteers invested their time and money into this project as they do it for every other projects of VSM. Villagers also contributed to this project through their labour and hard work (Shramadan). As a result of this, we were able to close this project at a significantly lower than the estimated cost, without compromising on quality. We are now working on the next phases of this project with the aim of completely making Vihigaon water sufficient."