Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rainwater Harvesting in Drought Prone Areas

The villages in the lower belt of South and West District located in the Rangit river valley receive less than half the rainfall that Gangtok receives. The mean annual rainfall here is less than 150cm and is concentrated during the monsoon months followed by a long winter drought. The only water available is rainwater which due to the steep terrain is mostly lost as surface runoff with less than 15% water percolating and recharging the groundwater.
RM&DD jointly with SIRD has initiated a pilot rainwater harvesting experiment for groundwater recharge in the villages of Sadam Suntaley, Turuk Ramabung and Lungchok Kamarey. Thousands of staggered contour trenches and percolation ponds have been dug up in about 80 ha of reserve forests above these villages over the last 3 months. It is estimated that 15 lakh litres of groundwater recharge will take place annually from one ha of recharge works. This recharge will help to replenish and recharge the springs and streams like Khani khola and Rolu khola.

With a total investment of about Rs 20 lakh, it is estimated that a total of 12 crore litres of groundwater will get recharged with the unit cost coming to only 2 paisa per litre of recharge.
In order to upscale this initiative, a two day exposure visit of 15 Gram Panchayats of Soreng and Kaluk Blocks in the drought prone part of West District was organized by SIRD on 25th and 26th July 2011.
The Panchayats were shown and explained the rainwater harvesting works, the technique for groundwater recharge, methodology of digging the contour trenches and percolation ponds along with the costing and monitoring aspects. The main resource persons were Shri Suren Mohra Field Faciltator and Shri Bikash Subba Faculty SIRD who are the master trainers of the Dhara Vikas program.
The meeting was also addressed by Smt. Bharati Mohanty IFS who informed the Panchayats of the various forestry programs, JFMC activities and how rainwater harvesting projects could also be converged from the Forest Development Agency Program. Shri Sandeep Tambe IFS Special Secretary – RM&DD informed the Gram Panchayats that the main objective the exposure visit was to sensitize the Panchayats of this new cost effective rainwater harvesting technique which if implemented scientifically had the potential of transforming their village from a drought prone to a water surplus area in a sustainable manner.
The Panchayats were very much encouraged by the exposure visit and showed keen interest in replicating this initiative in their villages.
Even during the HCMs visit to these drought prone villages during June 2011, the issue of rainwater harvesting received top priority and accordingly this capacity building program was organized to sensitize the Gram Panchayats on this new approach to rainwater harvesting for groundwater recharge. Over the next few months with the technical support of SIRD and RM&DD, larger areas are planned to be taken up for rainwater harvesting jointly with the Forest Department with funding support from MGNREGA.
[Dr. Sandeep Tambe
Special Secretary, Rural Management and Development Department, Government of Sikkim]

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