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Palamau Villagers Show The Way For State Government

Palmau: This monsoon, two blocks of usually drought-prone Palamau district are looking up for a story different from other monsoons, thanks to more than 20-odd reservoirs set up on streams that drip down from hill, by a local NGO with the help of German-based Welthungerhilfe.

While the state capital has already got more 50 mm of rainfall soon after monsoon set in in Jharkhand a few days back, Palamau villagers said all that they have so far got is some stray rainfall around the district, which in no case would exceed 10 mm. However, they are pinning hope on the numerous small dams that have recently been built by themselves with partial financial aid by Welthungerhilfe, for water in their agricultural lands.

“More than 20 dams are ready in two blocks of Palamau—Chainpur and Paton. Once there is relatively good rainfall, these dams will not allow the rain water to rush off and thereby avail water for farmers’ lands,’ said Vinod Kumar, a social activist and secretary of Sampurn Gram Vikas Kendra, the NGO which mobilized the villagers of two blocks and with the partial financial help of German-based funder, oversaw construction of the dams.

Plamau district is a rain shadow zone of Jharkhand and on an average the district gets only around 500-600 mm of rainfall in a year while Jharkhand’s average rainfall is 1200-1300 mm. Due to this reason, rainwater harvesting was in practice in this region since the days Chanakya and it used to be called Ahar-Pyne system (ahar meaning pond and pyne meaning canal). As the region is surrounded by hills all around, rain water from the hills would drip down and fill up the Ahars. When the first Ahar located just below the hills fills up, water gets directed to the next Ahar through Pyne, the canal. This ensured water for the farmers, which otherwise ran off to the rivulets and rivers. This system worked wonder till late 1970s.

But, in United Bihar, the government came up with its development plans and through Prime Ministers Swarojgar Yojna, the pynes (ahars) were converted into roads, wiping off completely the age-old Ahar-Pyne system. The villagers now had road to ply their by-cycles and bikes on, but water was gone. Their lands parched, even during monsoon. Result: large-scale migration of villagers to other places and cities in search of livelihood.

The small dams that have been constructed by the villagers to harvest rain water in Paton block include Ilaichi dam, Sandal Ahar, Barka Ahar, Ahri Ahar, Banjhe Ahar, Pachari Ahar, Purna Ahar, Ganjan Ahar, Samda Ahar and Nunmatia Ahar. Similarly, in Chainpur block, the small dams that have been built by the villagers include Kerwa Ahar, Balha Ahar, Chhitra Beyar, Bhuini Ahar, Chamabothwa Ahar, Kusum Nala Ahar, Dewkudwa Ahar, Bansdih Ahar, Aragarha Ahar, Luciana Ahar and Bakreli Ahar.

‘While a few dams were ready for last monsoon itself, construction of most of the dams have been completed this year and they are now ready to harvest water this monsoon. Shram daan was the major factor in the coming up of the dams while a small portion of the labour was paid by the funder through us. Let’s hope that Palamau gets its share of rainfall and the dams fill up,’ Anil Kumar, social activist of Sampurn Gram Vikas Kendra, who was one of the many mobilisers of villagers.

At a time when the Narendra Modi government is trying to push massive industrialization under its brand vision ‘Make in India’ and the state government is planning to set up Smart City in Ranchi, a large chunk of villagers in rain shadow zone like Palamau and Garhwa districts cannot think life beyond water, an essential commodity for mere survival.

‘The state government should itself come forward and fund for setting up of such small dams on streams that come down from hills. As the state government is yet to even wake up to such idea, the villagers have themselves set an example,’ opined Vinod Kumar.

Let us hope that the welfare state wakes up to the small basic needs of villagers, who have equal right to exist as a respectable citizen of the country with square meals, and takes forward the example set by the villagers. – Santosh Kiro

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