Waterworks under MGNREGA have infused fresh life into our farming sector, say villagers in Gujarat and Maharashtra in a Down To Earth-CSE survey

Gujarat and Maharashtra

Incredible stories of transformation triggered by water management emerge from a country-wide survey to mark World Water Day 

On MGNREGA’s 15th anniversary, 14 reporters brave the resurgent coronavirus to traverse 16,000 km in 15 states to assess the impact of the programme 

In the age of climate change, water conservation will be even more critical. MGNREGA is the world’s biggest adaptation programme as it harnesses the labour of people to invest in building the wherewithal
to fight drought and build resilience

New Delhi, March 22, 2021: “By putting water conservation at its core, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is transforming India’s rural landscape and changing the lives of the country’s poor – our new nation-wide survey has found. What better way to mark the World Water Day than by celebrating this unheralded success story of rural India’s water warriors, our JalYodhas?” said SunitaNarain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and editor of the fortnightly, Down To Earth, here today, inaugurating a webinar. 

The webinar featured the highlights of the report on villages that have made the transformation from drought to prosperity. It brought together the JalYodhas – the representatives of the villages who have made this possible.“Fourteen reporters of Down To Earth have travelled across the length and breadth of the country at a time when a pandemic was raging, reporting on what this Act has meant for India’s rural hinterland. They have covered 16 villages in 15 districts of as many states, and brought back incredible stories from the ground,” says Down To Earth managing editor Richard Mahapatra. 

Three villages in two districts from India’s western states were visited by the reporters. They include Vasna and Rampur in Sabarkantha district (Gujarat); and Tupewadi in Jalna district (Maharashtra). 

What did Down To Earth find? 

Vasna: In villages such as Vasnaand Rampur in district Sabarkantha of Gujarat, residents got by on dairy farming. Today, people grow two crops, including water-intensive fruit crops, and the villagesare abuzz with plans of diversification of crops. All this has been made possible by water-retention measures taken under MGNREGA—digging up big and small ponds, and constructing check dams and bori bunds (check dams made of gunny bags filled with soil).Vasna, which used to be completely rain-dependent, now has surface water for 10 months in the year. Migration has gone down by 40 per cent. “The water table has improved noticeably, the village’s dependence on rainwater has reduced considerably, and I plan to buy two more buffaloes to add to my stock of nine,” says Suresh Thakor of Rampur village. 

Tupewadi: Increased water availability due to conservation efforts under MGNREGA have allowed farmers in Tupewadi village in Jalna district of Maharashtra to diversify their crop profile. NaineshwarVitthal, a resident of the drought-prone village, only used to grow cotton. Today, he grows tomatoes as well. Says he, “My family’s income was just Rs 36,000 a year in 2008. Now, I earn Rs 8,00,000 a year.” Tupewadi’s income from agriculture has increased by 300 per cent. 

Mahapatra says finding the villages which had successfully executed MGNREGA was difficult as no records are kept of the sustainability of the works that have been undertaken under this programme. “The government only keeps a record of the ‘number’ of works done, and of whether they have been completed. But what is not known is if the structure built under MGNREGA has improved the water security of the village, or has contributed, as it should, to livelihood improvements. This is what our Down To Earth reporters wanted to find out,” says Mahapatra. 

As per government records, since 2006 more than 30 million water conservation-related ecological assets have been created; this totals to some 50 water structures in every village of India. Calculations show that these structures have potentially conserved roughly 29,000 million cubic meters of water in this period and have the potential to irrigate some 19 million hectares. 

Narain says: “Water is a determinant of our present and future. With climate change we will see more rain and more heat and in this the management of water will be our make or break. Water security is also crucial for livelihood security. It builds resilience and the ability to cope with weather adversities. The MGNREGA is the world’s largest social security and climate risk management programme.” 

See the lead CSE press release on World Water Day: Click here

To access the webinar-related information: Click here

To access the complete DTE cover story and info-package on how MGNREGA is transforming the rural landscapes and economy of India: Click here


For more on the subject and for interviews, please contact Sukanya Nair of The CSE Media Resource Centre: sukanya.nair@cseindia.org / 8816818864



Live streaming link MGNREGA
The Chase and the Change
Sunita Narain
Director General
Press Release
March 22, 2021
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