In this village droughts are a thing of the past
India is in the throes of one of the harshest summers ever.
As per the data released by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the pre-monsoon rainfall from March to April has recorded a 27 per cent deficit. This has serious ramifications for the agriculture sector for which it is crucial. ‘About half the country is in the grip of a serious drought,’ says a statement from the scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Gandhinagar. They have also warned that the worse could be on the way as the severity of the drought is likely to intensify over May and June.
The country itself is in the grip of an acute heatwave and more than half the population is affected by it. The Central Water Commission (CWC) has released studies showing that the water levels in India’s major reservoirs and river basins have fallen to 21 per cent of its average in the last decade. ‘Thousands of villages in central, western and southern India could be pushed into a major water crisis,’ the CWC has noted.
However, in Kizhakkambalam, the little agrarian hamlet tucked away in the suburbs of Kochi in Kerala, the story is different. Drastically, verdantly, different.
‘Water security’ was one of the major development initiatives undertaken by Twenty20 since its inception in May, 2013. “Twenty20 safeguards water security and ensures a sustainable water supply through environmental protection and effective supply systems,” said Sabu Jacob, the chief coordinator of the CSR arm of the Anna Kitex group. The efforts have borne fruit and the results are for everyone to see.
There has been a smattering of rains so far and most of the agriculture belts in Kerala are adversely affected by the intense summer. Even then, the farmers of Kizhakkambalam are an optimistic lot. The canals, streams, ponds and wells in the region have all been renovated and recharged by Twenty20 spending crores of rupees. This has, in turn, revived the groundwater levels in the village. With the groundwater levels going up, farmers are able to grow crops including water-intensive paddy. Besides others, at least 300 acres of fields are under paddy cultivation across different regions of Kizhakkambalam.
A familiar sight for the residents by now is the orange-coloured dredger cum canal cleaner. This is a super-specialised gargantuan machinery that works without missing a beat half submerged in mud, salvaging clogged canals and shallow ponds with its long-limbed blades. Several canals in the village that had disappeared over the years to disuse and land reclamation, have been renovated with the dredger, cleaned up, widened and protected with boundary walls of stone. The longest were two canals, measuring over 10 km each, which were renovated and are largely brimming even during the sweltering summer. A total of 142 check dams have been built across these water bodies to ensure adequate water supply for farming activities.
“It is fascinating to see how this machine goes into swampy areas which are not accessible to humans and revives a pond which was forgotten even by the residents,” a local said. “Once the work is over, there you see a pond or stream which we had only heard about.”
Water security is of utmost importance for sustainable development. As we all know, the vital water resources are under duress and there is an urgent need to improve the manner in which water is managed by all stakeholders. Twenty20 has so far spent Rs 72 crores (720 million rupees) to revive these water bodies which were slowly disappearing, succumbing to landfill or disuse and disrepair. This has inspired hundreds of farmers in the village to make a glorious return to farming not just as a means of profitable livelihood but also as a way of embracing a glorious past.