A banking model for water needs

Oasis of hope Arun and Sumangala Deshpande at the water bank. Photo: Shailendra Pandey

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.


  1. Dear Mr Jain,
    Two of the facts that you have posted here are false. This couple that you have featured was never “jet-setting corporate consultants”. The lady in question was a school teacher. Mr. D..well, I cannot say for sure what he did for a living, but he was NEVER a corporate jet-setter. Please check the facts. They never lived a Gandhian life either.I wonder how you deduced that!

  2. SRK -Thought I would clear this thing. Its kind of funny the comments you had made -probably with not a lot of homework; just based upon the perception vs reality. Be careful about these – especially when you are putting them on the public forums. Journalists are of course known for their lack of depth while reporting and the ‘words’ that they used may not be the choicest that we can all approve; but the essence is what is important. More than that, the work and the information underneath that needs to get to the masses – and replicated across the country is to me more important. But thats the sad story of our pseudo intellectualism (me guilty too); we are great with words – but the actual work on the ground is something like a mirage. When someone does it – lets be there to support. Jet set lifestyle – I am not sure you know but Arun was offered a post as an agril. Officer in Central bank of India when he just passed. He was in Sciefa, consultant in Rallies India, and then did a stint with NCERT. Could have been at a very senior position for most of his life. Karyarat book by Anil Awachat would be a good start. As far as Gandhian philosophy goes, please talk with Arun and stay with him in Ankoli for a few days before making such careless statements. I think you have a profound mis-understanding about what Gandhi was and his views on science.

  3. Prabhakar I appreciate if u could help me out in tracing the two persons name and email as I am very impressed with their project, In future sure we will join with them and see how far we could help our society.

  4. Worth enumerating, how deep the tank is, how long did it take to dig it, on whose land it is, and the quality of tarp and its seamlessness and maintenance. What do these tow live off and more about their current life would be fascinating.
    A successful initiative like this need more investigation and I hope Tehelka will highlight more information.
    Lovely article, so refreshing, like water to the thirsty!


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