As part of the decentralised water management intervention, PRIA, along with Path Pradarshak in Surguja,
Sambhav in Bilasp...
panchayat started fish farming as an alternate source of income. Apart from rainwater the dabri is the only source
for irr...
3
The community's religious sanctity for forests, water and animals
The community worships the Rain God during naagpancham...
The Chuhiya Village in Chuhiya Panchayat of Korba District has a population of 850 people. It has 27 wells, 18
hand pumps,...
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Traditional water conservation and harvesting methods - Best Practices from Surguja, India

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As part of the decentralised water management intervention, PRIA, along with Path Pradarshak in Surguja,Sambhav in Bilaspur and SROUT, in Korba District documented the following cases in Schedule V areas, where tribal communities have effectively managed the water bodies (especially drinking water and irrigation) through their traditional community based structures.

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Traditional water conservation and harvesting methods - Best Practices from Surguja, India

  1. 1. As part of the decentralised water management intervention, PRIA, along with Path Pradarshak in Surguja, Sambhav in Bilaspur and SROUT, in Korba District documented the following cases in Schedule V areas, where tribal communities have effectively managed the water bodies (especially drinking water and irrigation) through their traditional community based structures. Murma Village is a village of Devkhol Panchayat of Ambikapur, Surguja District. There are a total of 75 families in the village. Agriculture is the main source of occupation. Other avenues of employment are road construction, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MNREGA) scheme, and fish farming through the initiative of women lead SHGs and a proactive panchayat. The average monthly income of the families is between Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1500.The community is self-sufficient in terms of the utilisation of water resources available to them within the vicinity of the village. Traditional practices of water conservation and management The community traditionally practices the digging of ubkas (shallow water pits) as the water table of the Ambikapur Block is high. The ubkas are dug by men and not women. They are mainly dug in the field for irrigation and other household activities. The underlying factor is that the community traditionally seem to know where water will be found on the surface so they dig the ubkas there. They use traditional knowledge to assess the availability of water. The water remains in the ubka for a few months and then the community finds another place to dig the next ubka. The digging of ubkas is based on the traditional and indigenous knowledge of the community. These shallow pits help the community in accessing the water near their houses. The ubkas are not dug during the summers as water evaporates faster then. Therefore the community uses either the dabri or the nalla that flows besides the village. Apart from digging ubkas the community has also dug a dabri/farm pond primarily for irrigation purposes. The dabri is 12 feet deep and mainly stores rainwater along with a natural stream that flows into it. The stream usually flows down from the hills. Realising the utility of the dabri as a source of income for the community, the SHG and Traditional Water Conservation and Management Practices best practices From Ubkas to the Fields
  2. 2. panchayat started fish farming as an alternate source of income. Apart from rainwater the dabri is the only source for irrigation. So the community made a joint financial contribution to purchase a diesel pump that pulls water from the dabri and channelizes it to the fields. The dabri was further deepened by the government under the MNREGA scheme. At present the SHG contributes to the monitoring, upkeep, maintenance, and cleaning of the dabri. They have also appointed a supervisor to look after the dabri. Threats to the practice Factors like the depletion of water table, persistent decrease in precipitation, and global warming are a direct threat to the community led practices to conserve, preserve and use water resources. “I am observing that for the past two - three years precipitation is less, also earlier when we use to dig ubkas the water was available within the depth of one foot. At present we have to dig at least 3-4 feet to get water- Kadam Kuwar, resident of Murma Village Secondly, the apprehension is who will bear the cost of diesel in the long term. The government has helped by deepening the pond but no financial assistance has been provided for other supportive and related activities by the government. Third threat is the lack of electricity. Saledabri Village is one of the villages of Dhumka Panchayat of Bilaspur District. The population of the village is 400 people. Farming is the main occupation of the community and the chief crop is paddy. The community also gets employment under the MNREGA scheme. They mainly construct roads, make canals, and digdabr is which gives them a decent earning. The yearly income of each family in the village is Rs.20,000. The community has both traditional and government supported water related structures in the village that cater to the water related needs of the community. Traditional practice of water management To fulfil their daily water needs, the ancestors of the village have dug a talab in which rainwater is harvested. The talab dries up in summers and the community removes the pebbles and other extraneous and injurious items from the talab. During the monsoons the talab refills with fresh water and the water lasts for an entire year. The talab has a separate ghat(place to bath) for women. On the left hand side there are three temples which are 300 years old. They stand as a proof of the community's practice of preserving water and praying near the water source. Lord Shiva and Nandi, Lord Shiva's cow are mainly worshipped by the villagers. The other best practice of the community is to dig dabris (shallow pits/farm ponds). As the name reflects, 'Sale' means 'hundred' and 'dabri' means 'shallow pits' dug by the community hence, the name Saledabri. The government adopted the community practice of digging dabris and modified it by converting it into a big dam that can be utilised for irrigation. When the dam was built the people of the community contributed their labour and the cost of constructing the dam, which was Rs. 3 crores, was incurred by the government. Till date however canals have not been constructed due to which the water in the dam is not utilised optimally for irrigation. 2 Tradional Water Conservation and Management Practices Participatory Research in Asia The Land of Thousand Dabris
  3. 3. 3 The community's religious sanctity for forests, water and animals The community worships the Rain God during naagpanchami or saavan (monsoon) season. The community as a whole visits the goddess Chepa Rani's cave in the mountain. They offer flowers, milk and other eatables to the Goddess for good rains. In this village there is no practice of only men worshipping the Rain God. The whole community celebrates that day as they believe that it will bring wealth and prosperity to the village. Maintenance Rules of Nagchua Village's Community Pond No soap or toothpaste is used in the pond, only a holy dip can be taken; No slippers are allowed inside the pond; No fishing is permitted inside the pond; Women are not allowed to go near the pond during their menses; No gambling and alcohol is allowed near the tank. Threats to the practice Bakhua Ram aged 91 years says, while visiting the talab, “that the forest cutting is the main threat to all the water resources. The talab water gets evaporated fast in the absence of trees around it. Also the ghats are used by women to bath, fewer trees make women vulnerable when they bathe. These are the only places available where women can bathe. The animals even struggle for shade in the absence of trees”.The community takes the blame for the rampant clearing of the forest as they use wood for cooking' though the forest mafia is also active in their village. Religious fable about the origin of Belpaan Nalla, in Belpaan Village There was a saint who religiously walked miles to take a holy dip in River Narmada whose source is Amarkanthak. As the saint got old he was incapable of walking such long distances. Happy with his commitment and dedication River Narmada blissfully proposed that he come to his village. The condition put by River Narmada was that the saint should welcome her by belpattas and flowers. He did as she desired and River Narmada appeared in the form of a nalla in his villge but a little far away from the village. This made the village people doubt that the nalla was the epitome of River Narmada. The saint felt dejected as he knew it was Rver Narmada which has originated near his village. So to prove to each one in the village he took Samadhi (state of consciousness induced by complete meditation), and subsequently the River Narmada originated near his samadhi. Today the village has become a religious spot. The Samadhi of saint is walled and the nalla has religious sanctity. It is also believed that if any person commitsany sin like killing cow he/she can confess near the nalla and get free from his/her sins. • • • • • Best Practices
  4. 4. The Chuhiya Village in Chuhiya Panchayat of Korba District has a population of 850 people. It has 27 wells, 18 hand pumps, four rain fed ponds, six dabris, two dhondis, three nallahs (dries up in summers for a month). May – June are the dry months when the village faces water scarcity. The tap water scheme was already in place and and the village won the Nirmal Gram title. The village does not have adequate water for irrigation and faces hardships during droughts as agriculture is mostly rain fed. Traditional management and conservation practice In the village the practice of using dhondi water for drinking was prevalent. The dhondi is a small pool of water collected, like a spring in a certain patch of land. The practice of taking water for drinking from the dhondi has been carrying on since time immemorial and over the years spiritual significance has also been attached to it. People prefer this water which they find is sweet tasting as compared to the water from the hand pump which because of its high iron content does not taste good. The dhondi visited in the village was located close to the fields. The water in this particular dhondi was available throughout the year. The villagers had constructed a small boundary wall around it to stop stray cattle from entering the area. Since the place has religious significance and is considered the “devsthal” the village elders did not want to put up a boundary wall around the dhondi, but the problem of cattle entering the area was discussed at the panchayat and finally a decision was taken to construct a boundary wall. During community festivals and important occasions like weddings etc. water is taken from this source by each family. On a regular basis most of the families do take water from here but some who have access to a well do not use the dhondi water regularly. The drinking water from dhondi however is taken on special religious occasions, and during such times families also clean the water hole, and contribute to its upkeep. Usually it is the men who do the cleaning and women collect water. It was shared by the sarpanch and upsarpanch that there was no caste based discrimination among people when it came to accessing water from a collective source though they did not sit and eat and drink from the same plate. Threats to the practice The PHED Department officials shared that the water was unfit for drinking; they mentioned that during monsoons, chlorine etc. is added to the water by department officials. The department acknowledged the risks involved in drinking this water but felt helpless as it was a tradition which has been practiced over years. They still continue to conduct regular awareness programmes and test the water quality. Supported by : Participatory Research in Asia PRIA is an International Centre for Learning and Promotion of Participation and Democratic Governance Author Shivani Singh is working in PRIA as a Programme Officer. © PRIA, March 2014 This publication has been brought out under the PRIA programme titled “Action Research on Implementation of Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA), 1996 in Chhattisgarh (with special focus on water).” This programme is supported by Arghyam, Bangalore . Head Office : 42, Tughlakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi - 110 062 India Phone: (+91-11) 2996 0931/32/33 Fax: (+91-11) 29955183 Email: info@pria.org Web: www.pria.org State Office : House No. 52, Sector-1, Geetanjali Nagar, Raipur - 492 007 Phone: (0771) 2442 180 E-mail: raipur@pria.org The Sweet Dhondi Water

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