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To save their only spring, an Adivasi community unites to plant trees

Story

By Chandrika Patnaik

12 December 2022

To mitigate severe water shortage, an Adivasi community plants trees to recharge their spring and improve soil moisture.

Plantation of fruit bearing trees at K Tirigochha village

Photograph by Basanta Naik

Kandabanta is a small hamlet with 19 Adivasi households in the Jagannathprasad block of the Ganjam district. Before Gram Vikas set up a piped water system in the village, the residents of this village depended on a spring located nearly a kilometre from the village.

The village has three tube wells, out of which two are not in working condition. The water in the third tube well has a metallic taste and an offensive odour, but residents had to use it while waiting 20-30 minutes for their turn to fill their vessels from the tube well. The only dug well dried up during the summer. Due to a lack of access to clean water, residents regularly fell ill and suffered from typhoid and jaundice.

Water to every household

Gram Vikas partnered with the village in 2005 to construct toilets and bathrooms for all 19 households. By 2006, every home started getting piped water supply through three taps. A gravity flow system from the Spring supplied the water.

“Earlier, the water source used to get contaminated during the monsoons. We had to walk over five hundred meters just to have a bath. Now we do it in the comfort of our home. Our village looks clean and our children do not fall ill frequently now,” says Nayani Jani, 48, remembering the struggle women undertook daily to fetch water from the Spring.

In the gravity flow system, water is carried through a pipeline to a reservoir tank and distributed to individual household taps in the villages. It fulfilled the daily water needs of all 19 families living in Kandabanta.

However, the increase in the felling of trees in the nearby forest since 2019 reduced the discharge from the Spring. It led to water scarcity as the Spring no longer had enough water to supply all the residents in the village.

The village received funds from the Rural Water Supply & Sanitation Division (RWSS) to dig a borewell, but the contractor in charge of digging left it mid-way due to a dispute in payment. Gram Vikas provided the second borewell with solar panels and a motor to pump water to the overhead water tank. During summers, when the water discharge in the Spring reduces, residents use the water from the borewell.

In May 2022, Gram Vikas worked with five villages – Gramdevati, Kandhabanta, Dipasahi, Nuasahi and Rampo – in Khetamundali and Tarasingi Panchayats to ensure water supply. These villages had been facing acute water shortages during summer with a reduced discharge from the Spring.

B1G1 supports aquifer recharge

Gram Vikas partnered with B1G1 and initiated a programme for planting trees in catchment areas of water sources to increase soil moisture content for the recharge of the aquifers. The Gram Vikas team approached the village committees in each of the five villages for a focus group discussion.

In Kandhabanta, Gram Vikas met with the Village Development Committee (VDC) to organise a discussion on Spring rejuvenation and groundwater management. The VDC, Self Help Group (SHG), Van Suraksha Samiti members and youth leaders learnt about Springshed Management and Watershed Development through audio-visual sessions held between May and June 2022.

The sessions included a video screening of ‘Where springs return…’ a film on the watershed work of Tentulipada residents in Kalahandi district, which revived Springs in their village. After the screening, they held community discussions on water source sustainability and groundwater management. The team shared photos of nearby village communities from Nuasahi and Rampo digging and planting saplings in the catchment areas to motivate the Kandhabanta residents.

These sessions helped the community to understand that unchecked exploitation of common pool resources decreased the water table in the area, causing excessive erosion and low productivity of agricultural land.

Gandhi Jani, 68, a farmer and President of the Kandhabanta VDC, cultivates brinjal. He says, “Through these sessions, we have been able to learn important lessons on groundwater, water usage, about soil fertility, about our forests, and how judicious use of all the natural resources will help in the economic prosperity of the residents. We need to secure the future of future generations in this village.”

Residents plant indigenous trees

The VDC members contacted the Sarpanch of Tarasingi Panchayat and the District Forest Officer to provide the saplings. Subsequently, they received a total of 1200 saplings of indigenous species of trees, like mango, jackfruit, karanja, blackberry, and tamarind.

Nayani Jani planted forty saplings along with her husband, Narayan Jani, during the plantation drive in the village. She shares her joy: “I feel proud to have participated with other women of our village in planting trees during the plantation drive. We have learnt that this effort will help in increasing water level and forest cover in our area in the future. We also learnt that we should save water so that future generations do not face water scarcity.”

“To ensure proper care and increase the plant’s survival rate, we have decided to take the cows for grazing by turn so that they do not chew on the saplings. All the residents will take care of the plants so that these saplings grow into trees,” said Kartika Pradhan, 28, a farmer and ward member. The residents dug pits for planting saplings across five acres of land in the village. They received ₹5 for digging a pit and planting the saplings.

The farmers in the village hope that such plantation activities would rehabilitate the deteriorating lands, improve the soil’s moisture content and improve the spring’s discharge. These efforts will boost productivity. The people-centric approach of holding audio-visual sessions, capacity building and the plantation drive involving the entire community has promoted unity and understanding among the village residents and created ownership for the work.

Rally taken out in Dhipasahi village to spread awareness on tree plantation for water security

Photograph by Prasanta Kumar Naik

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Dulhabha Odandra, Thematic Coordinator, Water Source Sustainability and Prasant Kumar Naik, a Thematic Coordinator in Planning Monitoring Documentation and Communication, helped with data collection for the story. Priya Pillai edited the story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chandrika Patnaik leads content production within the Communications team in Gram Vikas.

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