MGNREGA success boosts water conservation in Nanded

Mumbai: A successful use of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA) in Nanded, one of the most backward districts of Maharashtra, has seen groundwater levels improving dramatically over the past three years.

Shrikar Pardeshi, District Collector, received an award from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for "Effective Initiative under MGNREGA" for 2010-11 a few days ago.

"(Over last three years) The groundwater level in the district has increased by 9 meters. The number of tankers supplying water to the villages came down from 425 to just 27, while the number of wells requisitioned came down from 910 to just 192. In the previous three years, the expenditure on water scarcity solutions was Rs 21 crore every year. Now, for 2011-12, that has come down to mere Rs 1.4 crore," Pardeshi told reporters here.

This was possible because of co-ordination of local bodies and Revenue and Agriculture departments, he said.

In the year 2011-12, 9,300 check dams were built in the district, located in Central Maharashtra. Pardeshi said Nanded had been the best performing district in MGNREGA in Maharashtra for the last three years.

The district generated 31 lakh person-days in the year 2010-11 and spent Rs 73 crore on MGNREGA works. A total of 14,414 Vanrai Bandharas (temporary check-dams) were constructed through community participation in 2010-11. It was done without spending a penny of the government, Pardeshi claimed.

The empty cement bags, needed to construct these dams, were obtained from private donors, such as associations of builders and contractors. Even school children and women`s self-help groups (SHGs) participated in the construction of check dams, the Collector said.

The district administration had appealed to the women SHGs to come forward to construct Vanrai Bandharas, and it received a huge response: 2,100 of them were built by SHGs.

Pardeshi recalled that the district had reeled under acute water scarcity for three consecutive years from 2007. The rainfall was 73 per cent of the average in 2007, 66 per cent in 2008 and just 53 per cent in 2009. In the summer of 2010, almost all the water bodies had gone dry. The groundwater level had depleted by more than 6 meters. Large number of wells had gone completely dry for the first time in the recent history.

The district administration undertook a massive well-recharging programme, which included storing rainwater in big pits so that it percolates down into nearby well.

A total of 15,000 irrigation wells have been recharged this year alone. The rabi cultivation this year was 1,37,000 hectares in the district, though the rainfall was only 77 per cent of the average.