WHILE MANY places are reeling under the drought, some people have learnt from past mistakes and have prepared accordingly. Arun and Sumangala Deshpande, former jet-setting corporate consultants who turned towards Gandhian living in the 1980s, have set up a ‘water bank’ with the help of a local women’s self-help group in Ankoli village of Solapur district. The ‘bank’ is just a tarpaulin-lined storage tank spread across 5 acres, which stores water drawn from the nearby wells. Every member has to ‘deposit’ water in the bank and each is allowed to take out only as much water as she has put in.
To minimise water loss by evaporation, there is a disk in the middle of the tank, which spreads an organic chemical made from mustard oil over the surface. As the wind also causes evaporation, wind velocity is kept under check by 22 rings of trees planted around the tank. The tank holds more than 5 crore litres — enough for all the members for two summers.
Another such initiative is by Sampath Pawar, a farmer from Balawadi village of Sangli district, who got a check-dam built on the Yerala river. The river used to dry up during the summers, forcing people living on its sides to migrate. Pawar decided to do something to change that. In 1988, with the help of his friends, he mobilised students from universities in Mumbai and Delhi to participate in the construction of the checkdam. Initially, the government opposed the initiative, but relented later owing to pressure from the people. More than 10,000 people in three villages have benefited and 8,000 acres of land is being irrigated with water from the mini-project.