Rajasthan pitches for ‘people’s movement’ to battle water woes

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Jhalawar (Raj), February 1: Possessing barely 1.6 per cent of water resources of the country, the desert state of Rajasthan has launched a ‘people’s movement’ to recharge its scarce natural resource through the ambitious Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan.       

MJSA, started by the Rajasthan government, aims at making every village self-reliant in water and increasing productivity of the land. More than 3,000 villages will be covered under the campaign in four years in different phases.        

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who kicked off the first phase of the campaign from her constituency Jhalawar, noted that many stakeholders like private individuals, NGOs, corporates, social, religious and even caste organisations have been roped in for the initiative. 

“Water scarcity is one issue that is common among all strata of the society. That is why this campaign is a mass movement, wherein everybody feels connected to the issue. They are welcome to lend their support in kind, labour or money.        

“For a state that receives very low amounts of rainfall and even the little rain that does fall is concentrated in just 3-4 months every year, a campaign like this is the need of the hour. We have combined the traditional knowledge systems as well as the modern technology to devise a water conservation plan that will make our villages self-water reliant,” she said.  

The MJSA was envisioned after studying a similar pattern adopted by Maharashtra, where eight water scarce districts saw a turnaround after adopting this model. The first phase of the campaign estimated to cost Rs 3,568 crore will end on June 30. 

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Construction of minor irrigation tanks, canals, pipelines for drinking water, check dams, afforestation on wastelands, plantation and pasture development are some of the water conservation interventions planned under the campaign.       

Under the project, the state government has, for the first time, taken the help of crowd-funding. 

“Out of the Rs 3,568 crore meant for the MJSA, the government has pooled in Rs 2,400 crore. We still have a gap of Rs 1,200 crore. Here is where the people pitch in. Rajasthan has not been entirely swept away by the waves of modernization yet. Thus, the mantle to make the state water sufficient lies with its people, more than any establishment,” Anurag Bharadwaj, Director, Watershed Development said.       

Sriram Vedire, Chairperson, Rajasthan River Basin and Water Resources Planning Authority, said the areas covered under the drive were selected by remote sensing.

       “A lot of planning went into the selection of areas under the programme. For instance, in a village, the nature of conservation work is decided by taking stock of the usage of water like for drinking, irrigation, livestock and other commercial purposes. Technology, like remote sensing and mapping, came in handy to decide on the water-starved areas,” he said. 

“Many water conservation schemes have been implemented in the state before. But most of them remained localised and were never taken up holistically. The MJSA aims at plugging all these lacunae. The CM has directed 9 cabinet ministers to look into the various aspects of the campaign,” he said. 

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The BJP government raised Rs 7 crore from various stakeholders on the first day of the campaign at Jhalawar. The state police donated another Rs 8 crore by contributing a day’s salary of its personnel. 

The donors include village heads, retired school teachers, youth, social workers, students and trading companies. Various organizations pledged free supply of machinery, labour and other support. 

The Chief Minister noted that the government wished to link the rivers through the watershed programmes that would be executed as part of the campaign till June 30. 

“Inter-linking of rivers was the dream of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. We will fulfill his dream with this initiative,” she said.       

On being asked about accountability in execution of the campaign, the CM said she would make surprise visits to all the villages where the watershed programmes are being implemented. The district authorities have also been asked to submit timely reports about the progress of the work.

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