Enhancing Access To Water

NEERAJA - ENHANCING ACCESS TO WATER

The strongly emerging signs of economic and social development from within the Foundation’s Micro Finance (thru’ Women Self Help Groups) initiative at rural Nashik, face a serious challenge to its reaching of the maximum potential. With the women spending 4-8 hours daily in fetching water for their various household needs, they are left with little quality and quantity time to devote to the expansion of their entrepreneurial initiatives; in a way defeating the very purpose of their coming together into collectives and accessing bank loans.
 

It was to reduce their daily drudgery and allow them time to pursue economically gainful pursuits that Project Neeraja was conceptualized and put into action in March 2011. By means of rain water harvesting and maximizing the potential of existing water sources viz. wells, ponds, etc. Neeraja strives to reduce the time spent by women in collecting water by at least 50%. Enhanced access to water apart from ensuring economic development also brings along with it good health & hygiene, better nutrition, reduced dependence on rain-fed agriculture, increased ground water table and many such benefits in the long run. 
 

Beginning with humble contributions from Perfect Circle India Limited, an Anand Group entity and SNSF itself, Neeraja has secured the assistance of the entire Nasik City through the residents’ contribution to Nasik Run Charitable Trust in the Trust’s annual fund raising event of Nasik Run Marathon. 
 

In its little over 2 years of operation, Neeraja has found presence in 6 villages of Trimbakeshwar block. Following are examples of works undertaken under Neeraja, and their impact so far - 

 

  • In village Jhambulpada, a check dam has been constructed in 2011 for rain water harvesting (Earlier there was only small puddle). One of the visible impacts of this is that there has been an increase in the volume of water flowing into natural streams in the downstream area of the dam. Secondly, From having a near 10 –month dry period, today water is available to residents of Jhambulpada almost throughout the year. Even in the most dry period of January – June, the dam has 4 ‘ to 5’ of water.


    a) On an average, there has been a 50% reduction in the time women spent in fetching water for their household needs and no time is spent on fetching water for cattle. For e.g. earlier 4 hours per day down to 2 hours. Consequently, women report to their fields at 8 AM from the earlier 12 Noon timing. 

    b) With increased support from women in farm work, the total farm work of a family gets completed in lesser duration allowing them time to explore other avenues of employment – migrate to Nasik for longer duration of time as construction workers or to work in grape orchards, work as farm labours in others’ fields

    c) One family reported to be having an increased rice production by 3-4 quintals with enhanced access to water in the area
     
  • Around April – May 2012, in village Kharset, the village pond was cleaned after 25 years removing 8-9 feet of deep slush and mud. With this activity,
    • The foul smell being emitted from the pond has completely stopped;
    •  The dirty water in the pond had also resulted in about 7 wells situated in the downstream area of the pond to emit foul smell, this has also stopped along with rise in the water level in the wells.
    • Prior to this intervention and that of deepening of the Kharset village well, water is available in the wells for a longer duration i.e. even upto June, whereas earlier it used to dry up in between February – March. This indicates rise in the underground water table

      a) Earlier residents of Kharset and neighbouring village Pangulghar had no option but to visit the pond for bathing and washing needs. They often suffered from skin infections and also had their clothes emitting a foul smell.  With cleaning of the pond, people no longer suffer in this fashion and are able to live a cleaner and more hygienic life

      b) The cattle coming to this pond also contracted dysentery but now enjoy better health.
       
      c) The pond is now being used for developing fish – adding to the livelihood of the villagers
       
  • Around April – May 2012, in village Sadadpana, the village well was cleaned and deepened by  8 feet – As a result the well has water till the month of May whereas earlier it used to dry up in March reducing the dry period to 1 month from the earlier period of 4 months
     
  • At Karanjpana : From having a 5 feet deep and less than 5 feet wide hole as their source of water, the village has a new well this monsoon (constructed in May 2013) 18’ wide by 20’ deep (complete regeneration of a natural resource - well). Like in other cases mentioned above, here too there has been creation of additional underground natural water streams as well as enhancement of existing ones.  With this intervention in terms of enhancing access to water, the before-after livelihood picture in the village looks the following:

    •  Now the women spend no time at all in fetching water for their cattle. Cattle are taken by the well side. Earlier this task took them about 4 hours a day. 

    •  Fetching water to meet all household needs, women and also accompanied by their men during night time, spent a minimum of 6 hours / day. Many a times they slept and ate by the well so that they did not lose their turn

    Women went to work in their fields around 10 / 11 am and returned at 4 PM. Now they spend about 12 hours in their fields roughly 6 AM to 6 PM. The waiting time to fetch water has reduced to almost nil and from a time when they ate and slept by the water source; on an average 2-3 hours go in fetching water to meet all household needs.

    Being able to spend increased hours at their fields, allows them to perform weeding which gives them cattle feed. Earlier they did not have enough time to do this function; it is strongly believed that in years to come with weeding done, crop production would also improve.

    Also, with women being able to spend less number of hours in the field, families employed laborers to work in their fields, a total expense of Rs 4 K – 5K which now is a saving.
     
    Lastly, with time and energy focused on meeting water needs, certain families were not able to do sowing of Nagli, Paddy at the right time leading to land lying barren for the season.