“Banswara, once a barren district in Rajasthan, takes pride in pristine blue ponds and lush green trees that enjoy endless supply of water all year round. Wells and underground ponds brimming with water are big reasons to rejoice. Such is the beauty of Raje’s Mukhyamantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan. Let’s find out how Jal Swavlamban changed the lives of natives in Rajasthan.”
Water is one of the basic necessities that define our life. Water is an essential element that makes up not just our body, but two thirds of the entire universe—a driving force for all living forms in the world. We may not realize its importance, but the people of Rajasthan do. Being the only desert state of India, water crisis was a major issue that affected nearly 19 out of 33 districts. When 17,000 out of 44,672 villages in Rajasthan were battling acute water scarcity, Jal Swavlamban came as a ray of hope in the ‘dark zones’.
A couple of years back, the government spent lakhs of money on sending water trains and tankers to water-deficient areas like Barmer, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhopur and Jaisalmer. To make it worse, when tankers couldn’t reach remote areas, the natives had to walk several miles to fetch water from scorched oasis, marshes and partially-dried wells. To their bad luck, most of the times, they got fluoride-rich, saline water that was unfit for consumption.
When Rajasthan was facing the brunt of summer heat, chief minister Vasundhara Raje devised a way to make drought-struck districts self-sufficient. MJSA or Mukhyamantri Jal Swavlamban, a modern rainwater harvesting project based on four-water concept provided the means to end long-term water scarcity. This ambitious scheme involves public participation in construction and repairing of new and old water reservoirs using funds raised by crowd funding. These collective efforts were instantly visible in Bharatpur’s Dumariya village (Rupvas Gram Panchayat).
On March 1, 2017, Rajasthan government commenced the construction of a dam to collect rainwater that collects during monsoons. Earlier, the water percolated the soil and entered drains and sewerage line, rendering it ineffective for use. Nevertheless, construction of a dam facilitated water storage. Stored water was later diverted to drains and wells, thus making it available for domestic and agricultural use. That’s how the residents of Dumariya village now receive water 24×7.
Water contained within a pond is lost to environment through evaporation. Nevertheless, when it percolates down the soil, it raises underground water table level. Underground water is easily accessible with solar pumps and tube wells. This is the basic idea behind MJSA.
Jogarpurae, Sawakhoh lakshmipura and Ganeshpura villages in Jhalawar used the four-water harvesting concept to resolve water crisis prevalent in the district. The government helped villagers construct a mini-percolation tank uphill. Rainwater that flows down the hills was diverted to underground reservoirs via percolation tanks.
This underground water found its way to the villages located in the foothills. When farmers dug ponds in the village, water surface above and the reservoirs got filled up to the brim. Today, these reservoirs supply water to sun-parched villages around this area. Bhilwara farmers no longer walk 20 kilometers to fetch water from the hills.
Needless to say, MJSA is one of the most successful government endeavors in Rajasthan till date – a public initiative that restored both water and smiles in the sun-kissed desert state.