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Odisha’s Sundargarh offers sustainable solution to water crisis

Farm Pond Sundargarh
Written by Satyaki Baidya

The UNDP estimates that water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of people. This alarming figure is projected to rise on account of rise in temperature. In India where millions are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, availability of water for irrigation poses a challenge.

In this context The Optimist News got in touch with the District Magistrate of Sundargarh, Nikhil Pavan Kalyan IAS, whose Farm Pond initiative at Sundargarh has been lauded by the Chief Minister’s Office, Odisha and whose wisdom in the context of water management offers insights into water governance. 

Knowing the turf

“I have always tried to take up initiatives related to water even in my previous postings. As a field officer, understanding the ground water scenario is one of the first things we have to do. It is important to know the available resources of water, the number of aquifers present and topography of the area. Once we know all these aspects of a district or a place we can understand the water requirements and availability and plan accordingly,” the District Magistrate shared.

“At Sundargarh we have a good water table and several ground water recharging options. If we can ensure tapping of these sources, water availability for drinking as well as for irrigation can be extremely enhanced,” he informed.   

Optimum utilization is the key

The district administration has always ensured that the construction of these projects do not amount to exploitation of water. “The dug wells and the farm ponds that we are building do not exploit the available water resources by digging a bore and taking out enormous amount of water,” Nikhil Pavan Kalyan said.

“We plan where we have the option to store water, options available to recharge, and the positions of the inlets and outlets. Moreover, we understand the aquifer to know where the percolation is least and after analysing the entire process thoroughly, we go ahead with the execution on the field. Understanding the ground water scenario comprises the bulk of the project,” Nikhil Pavan Kalyan shared.

Working of the Farm Pond project

The Farm Pond project at Sundargarh is being implemented by the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment under Odisha government’s Mo Sarkar 5T initiative, Directorate of Horticulture and Jala Bibhajika Mission. Learn more about the Farm Pond initiative by watching this video in this tweet.

During the pandemic providing employment to the rural masses through MGNREGS was given importance. MGNREGS is one of the largest work guarantee programs of the world which guarantees 100 days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related manual work. 

Odisha, particularly Sundargarh, went a step ahead. Projects relating to water conservation like building farm ponds or dug wells are prioritized under MGNREGS. This would not only tackle the drought like situation but also recharge ground water. 

The Agriculture Department, Directorate of Horticulture and Jala Bibhajika Mission are entrusted to select the beneficiaries of the project in which large, medium and small farmers will get ponds that measure 20, 15 and 10 square metres respectively depending on the size of their land.

431 Farm Ponds are operational till now for the year 2020-21 across all 17 blocks of the district. The trenches dug in the fallow land of the farmers are now helping them irrigate and grow multiple crops in both the Rabi and Kharif season. The quantity of their harvest has increased, thereby augmenting their income. 2500 farm ponds have been dug this season.

The daily wage laborers, who are at times farmers, are provided wages through MGNREGS to build the farm pond or Kheta Pokhari. Self help groups are also being roped in to oversee the project.   

Long term solutions 

The Sundargarh district administration has also implemented Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting projects which involves collecting rainwater on rooftops and sending it to underground recharge pits. This also helps in increasing groundwater level thereby providing a long term and sustainable water solution.

“We have planned 4000 more farm ponds, and rainwater harvesting for all the institutions in the entire district. Also around 1200-1300 dug wells have been planned which will be executed,” the District Magistrate informed.

Access to clean water and sanitation is one of UNDPs Sustainable Development Goals. Let us take a cue from Sundargarh and take more such concrete steps to lead India towards equitable development.

About the author

Satyaki Baidya

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