With the help of experts and through the community, they found a solution to their hardships
Women in the Dubroli village of Almora district’s Lamgar block have brought an end to their water woes with their own self reliance and a little bit of external help.
For most, Uttarakhand is a land of plenty as far as water is concerned, given its snow-clad peaks and glaciers and the fact that mighty perennial rivers like the Ganga originate in its territory.
But for the people of Uttarakhand, it is a parched land of stagnation and agony. Most will not believe that the state is facing an acute water shortage.
According to a 2018 NITI Aayog report, approximately 50 per cent of the mountain springs in India’s Himalayan region, which also includes Uttarakhand, are drying up.
Himalayan springs are a natural discharge from groundwater aquifers. They are considered as the greenest and cleanest form of water. About 90 per cent of Uttarakhand’s rural population depends on these springs for water. Himalayan springs also play a vital role in the ecology of Uttarakhand. They protect and nurture the oldest forests in the region.
Climate change, deforestation and urbanisation threaten the existence of Himalayan springs. According to a 2018 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Uttarakhand is among the states where less than 50 per cent of the population had access to adequate quantities of safe drinking water.
Women in Uttarakhand suffer the most when springs dry up as the responsibility of fetching water for all domestic needs lies with them.
“I need to go 10-12 times a day to fetch water for household needs,” 22-year-old Deepa Bisht told Down To Earth. She and other women in Dubroli village had to travel at least 1.5-2 kilometres a day to collect water. The government of Uttarakhand had installed a pipe connection in their village. But water came through them once in every 4-5 months, Neeta Saha said.
People living in the villages of Uttarakhand spend 43 minutes per day on an average to fetch water from outside their habitations. This is far higher than the national average, which is about 35 minutes.
Chirag is a non-profit working on the recharge and rejuvenation of Himalayan springs. Since 2008, it has been helping local communities across Uttarakhand.
In 2019, they started a rejuvenation project in Dubroli. Instead of using a conventional watershed approach, where water recharge pits, ponds and bunds were made without any focus, Chirag adopted a springshed hydro-geological approach.
This approach is cost-effective as a small area of land is taken for recharge and rejuvenation, Badrish Singh Mehra, executive director of Chirag, said. Chirag formed a village committee led by women. Under this committee, the rejuvenation of the springs started.
Women from the village made recharge pits, checked dams, bunds and planted trees in the recharge zone of the spring. Each household contributed Rs 25 per month for the rejuvenation of the springs. Chirag contributed the rest of the amount which covered 80 per cent of the total expenditure.
The women of Dubroli are not trained hydrologists or geologists. But they were relentless when it came to conserving water. With the help of experts and through the community, they found a solution to their hardships.
They have created an access to clean water. They can now rest and dream about a day when water from the springs that they have regenerated can reach their houses through pipes.
First published by Down to Earth on 21 Jan. 2021