Natural forces such as drought do not discriminate between marginal communities and the urban population. As a result you see the unprecedented scenes of Cape Town facing a severe water crisis and on the brink of a catastrophic Day Zero scenario. The problem with the changing climate is that humanity, as a whole, is going to face situations which we have no prior experience in confronting. With such an unpredictable future in front of us, the most vulnerable communities need to be equipped first and foremost to prevent a domino effect leading to systemic failure. In the drought-stricken Marathawada region of Maharashtra, where the water dynamics are extremely complicated, WOTR has taken up the mantle to create resilient communities who are able to deal with the widespread problems of water scarcity. Through its flagship Water Stewardship program, it aims to bring a strong sense of ownership among the stakeholders about the extent of the problem and promote collective action over individualistic approaches. It puts the onus of solving the problem on the community itself thereby reducing the dependence on unsustainable practices.
Among the key challenges of the 21st century are poverty, climate change and resource scarcity. This is especially dire in a country like India which relies heavily on agricultural production – a sector which employs about 70 % of the poor in the country, which is very vulnerable to changes in weather variations and faces a crisis with the lack of a widespread, sustainable source of water.
To this acute water crisis, the solution proposed by WOTR in the dryland areas of the country was watershed development. Very early in its operations, it was apparent the problem was not just one of landscape re-engineering, but a complex web of economic, social and environmental dimensions. Communities were at the centre of this web and had issues like a deeply engrained caste and class distinction, gender biases and a lack of responsibility for the commons.
It was here that WOTR developed the Wasundhara approach. This was a strategy for inclusive development based on regeneration of the resource base, transparency, equitable distribution of benefits, and gender equality.
With a goal of rebuilding the capitals of the agrarian communities in the semi-arid, the WOTR team in Telangana has brought together farmer groups from 4 villages in Talkondapally, block of the Rangareddy district, under a groundwater-pooling scheme. While several such groundwater-pooling models exist across India, this model focuses on connecting borewells through a uniquely designed drip irrigation system – adding to water use efficiency as well as ensuring better management of groundwater.
Watershed Organisation Trust recently organized a two-day workshop on residential Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP) at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra Jalna. Titled. ‘Water Situation in Rural Jalna in 2030: For Domestic and Livelihood Needs with the support of Adaption at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (AASAR), Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF), UK Government’s Department for International Development (DfID) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Canada.40 participants representing diverse backgrounds like farmers, government officials, NGOs, experts, academic and research institutes, and farmer groups took an active part in the workshop.
Water Stewardship Initiative, in collaboration with Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF), is being implemented in 106 villages of Maharashtra and Telangana to facilitate and promote efficient water-use practices that are, economically efficient, socially judicious and environmentally sustainable. As a part of this initiative, the village stakeholder representative teams (VSRTs) are trained to undertake the responsibility of sustainably using local water-resources, for which they prepare water stewardship plans while working with their respective communities. Along with water harvesting and saving plans, water budgeting forms an important component of the water stewardship plans. Moreover, communities collectively decide on social rules and norms to facilitate the implementation of the plans designed by them.
Semi-arid regions have problems of water scarcity, droughts even floods due to climate variability, but high rainfall areas with ample water bodies are prone to frequent floods and arid regions have scanty rainfall and face water shortages all year round. The point of stating these issues is that adaptation has a different meaning for different types of regions.Thus, the costs of adaptation will differ as well. Areas prone to climatic disasters will require higher investments towards adaptation than the figures in this blog and vice versa. The idea of putting a small village like Bhojdari at the center of this study is that the adaptation figures here can serve a proxies for other similar area and it could also serve as a benchmark to determine what costs go into building adaptive capacities in disaster prone areas.
The groundwater pollution is a serious concern worldwide. The geogenic (natural phenomena) and anthropogenic pressures are major reasons for groundwater pollution. However, in arid and semi-arid regions, pollution is mainly aggravated due to anthropogenic activities. It can be further exacerbated in future due to climate change and it’s variability.
The proper monitoring and treatment of contaminants for groundwater are absolute necessary to avoid risks to health, agriculture productivity and environmental degradation. It also calls for giving high priority to its protection and enhancement in the wake of future climate externalities. This blog post highlights the approach that WOTR has undertaken to bridge the gaps in existing water quality monitoring, assessment programmes and its communication with local stakeholders in India. It provides insights from the current study on preparation of groundwater quality index in Upper Godavari River basin, Ahmednagar.
In the month of April 2017, our team visited Padmavati village in Bhokardan block of Jalna district, Maharashtra to carry out a community driven vulnerability assessment study.
Different stakeholders from the village were invited to participate in focus group discussions to share the major changes that had been observed over the years.
WOTR developed a tool called Community Driven Vulnerability Evaluation-Programme Designer (CoDriVE-PD) that clearly identifies the need to factor in an evaluation of all such key vulnerabilities at an early stage in the project design and subsequently integrate these variables within the project framework, so as to minimize adverse impacts and thus, have better control of the project and the achievement of desired outcomes.
The initial few days at any organisation are all about getting to know it better. One tends to read about the organisation’s journey, its work, achievements and failures. While we were busy doing the same at WOTR, there was something atypical everyone kept talking about “the field”. Some said, “At WOTR, you will get a lot of field exposure”, or “Ah! Field is always good!” It almost seemed like there was dichotomy in the world here- the desk in the predominantly cream coloured office and the Field.