The Rural Water Programme works to stimulate the development of policies and strategies for sustainable, participatory and equitable water management in rural India. While the area of water is vast, there is a special focus on drinking water to look at how we can move towards sustained availability of safe and adequate drinking water.
In 1997, with the publication of Dying Wisdom, CSE created both interest and actions to promote the idea of rainwater harvesting to supplement modern systems of water management as a viable alternative source of irrigation and drinking water. CSE’s policy advocacy resulted in the concept of rainwater harvesting becoming embedded in the policy domain in the country with numerous schemes currently being implemented to promote capturing rainwater and recharging groundwater. At the same time, people were galvanised by wide dissemination of innovative ways of using rainwater.
When we were in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district in December 2010 as part of our interactions with village communities on water issues, we saw that irrigation was largely groundwater-based, like in many other parts of the country. Dhar district is one of the overexploited districts of Madhya Pradesh and is a fluoride affected area. When we asked the farmers why they were not doing any groundwater recharging, they said that although this was necessary, this work was beyond their capacities. And this was in Madhya Pradesh, where the country’s largest watershed development programme was running successfully since 1994, the Rajiv Gandhi Watershed Programme. Our travels across several villages in Madhya Pradesh made us realise that the idea of water harvesting needed to be revived and pushed to gain momentum to become a nationwide movement.
Nearly 12 years ago, CSE launched its campaign on rainwater harvesting. We have come a long way since then – rainwater harvesting is firmly placed in the policy paradigm. Many states have incorporated rainwater harvesting in their policies, laws and schemes. Many NGOs are working on rainwater harvesting and enthusiastic and committed individuals are doing a fantastic job of showing what can be done by simply holding rainwater where it falls. The Central Ground Water Board has prepared a master plan for artificial recharging for the entire country. Yet, there is a yawning gap between these plans and groundlevel implementation. The National Water Mission has a target of improving water efficiency by 20% by 2020. What about having a target for groundwater recharging?
When CSE launched its rainwater harvesting programme, nobody understood what it was all about. Anil Agarwal, on the other hand, firmly believed that capturing India’s monsoon rains during the short period of not more than 3 months in the year, could be the answer to India’s water problems. He said,” an average Indian village needs 1.2 hectares of land to capture 6.57 million litres of water in a year for cooking and drinking. If there is a drought and rainfall levels dip to half the normal, the land required would rise to a mere 2.4 hectare. Thus, there is no village in India that cannot meet its basic drinking and cooking needs through rainwater harvesting”.
With this in mind, CSE launched its campaign on rainwater harvesting. Catch Water was the campaign newsletter. The newsletter, true to the campaign’s aim of “making water everybody’s business”, endeavoured to be the people’s voice and to showcase their efforts. It was initially brought out in several Indian languages as well as in English. Somewhere, along the way, this effort got lost.
Today, we are trying to revive the newsletter. This is the first issue, and in this year, it will be brought out every two months. We request our readers to send us in water stories from all corners of the country – the issues, the problems, innovative solutions, people’s solutions and technological solutions. We would like to disseminate these efforts in all areas of water management – urban, rural, water supply, sanitation, water quality, rivers, floods, pricing, industrial use, watershed – in fact, anything and everything to with water. This first issue remembers the initial campaign days with a piece by Anil Agarwal.
Read on and we look forward to your contributions and your efforts to make this newsletter truly a voice of the people.