Mumbai: Palghar district comprises of a population of over 30 lac (Census 2011) out of which 85-90% are tribal farmers with agriculture as their main source of income. 92% of land that is used for Agriculture is rain fed.
The region has an average rainfall in excess of 2000 mm each year. However, due to nature of strata comprising of Basaltic rocks there is poor storage and transmission capability. The water table stands at or near the surface in the recharge area. These aquifers also drain naturally due to high water table gradient formed by sloping and undulating topography. Thus there is water scarcity in the region between January to May each year.
After cultivating rice in the monsoon, most villagers undertake unskilled labour working on daily wages basis in sand dredging units and brick kilns in nearby industrial towns of Vasai, Boisar, Vapi, Silvasa to earn money.
Interventions for an improved water scenario: In order to improve accessibility in the area, storage of appropriate good water accumulation pockets need to be undertaken. WATSCAN report carried out by CII suggests that considerable run off is available in the watershed that can be tapped through water harvesting structures, storages, ground water recharge to help meet the water requirements.
Work done by Rotary Dist 3141 & 3142: In the last 15 years, both Rotary Districts (being part of erstwhile RID 3140) have constructed more than 400 check dams in districts of Thane, Palghar, and Raigad. Each check dam enables irrigation of 20-25 acres resulting in an additional income of Rs 20-40k per acre to the family. The youth are more than happy to stay back in their village after monsoon and cultivate a second crop and even a third if water is made available in streams till April.
Identification of critical villages and beneficiaries: The rural water team of RI District 3141 has identified more than 60 village sites in Palghar district and are in the process of constructing 40 new check dams at a cost of about 2.50 crores, which will help about 800 marginal tribal farmers cultivate an additional crop of vegetable and pulses.
Cost: Check dams are constructed across streams carrying run off from the western ghats spanning 15-20 mt., with a height of 1.5-2.0 mt depending on level of surrounding farm lands. Cost varies between Rs 6-7 lacs depending on type of soil at base (foundation) and dimensions.
Impact: Typically, each hamlet consisting of 40-60 houses has at least one youth per household in the age group of 18-22 years.
These youth have understood the importance of water storage and are keen to harvest a second (November-January) and if possible a third crop of vegetable (Feb-April), if run off water can be stopped and stored for irrigation.
◙ Additional income of Rs 20000-40000 per family to 800 farmers each year.
◙ Gradual increase in surrounding water table.
◙ Women folk, who walk miles in summer for fetching water from far off wells, can cater to their children, help in farming.
Sustainability: Concrete check dams have a minimum life span of 30 years. The only maintenance required to ensure storage of water in check dams is de-silting of soil. All Panchayats are undertaking de-silting of ponds, streams once in 3-4 years under the MNREGA scheme.