Indian Rotarians’ interest in greening Rajasthan through replicable and sustainable water projects continues, despite the challenges posed by the Covid pandemic.
In June this year a commendable water conservation project — the construction of the Chattanwala check dam — was executed jointly in the Alwar district of Rajasthan by two Delhi clubs coming together. RCs Delhi Manthan and Delhi West, RID 3011, have constructed this dam with a water holding capacity of 72,000 cubic feet that will help irrigate over 200 hectares of agri land.
The idea of carrying out a water conservation project during his year as president of RC Delhi Manthan came to “me when I attended a PETS meet where our DG Sanjiv Rai Mehra said that during his year as governor his aim for the district was to construct 1,000 check dams. That very day I made a promise to myself that during my year our club will construct one check dam at a suitable place,” says club president N K Lamba (2020–21).
The Chattanwala water dam would benefit about 710 households with a population of 4,500 in these villages, with 218 hectares of agricultural land and 4,800 milch animals.
He started researching possible places based on community needs assessment “even before my year began, and right from Feb 2020 I started doing my homework, and involved the PHD Rural Development Foundation (PHDRDF) as a partner.” The site where the Chattanwala check dam has been built was one of those recommended by the foundation, which works at the grassroots-level with farmers. The region has scanty rainfall, faces the problem of water shortage and has a very low water table. The check dam suggested by PHDRDF was designed to recharge the groundwater table and improve access to water resources for agricultural and domestic usage in the villages of Hajipur and Umren in Alwar district.
The total project cost was ₹6 lakh. “But my club is really a baby club, less than three years old and we have only 25 members; after paying our RI dues we had only ₹4.5 lakh left, of which we kept ₹3 lakh for this project, and invited RC Delhi West, a much larger and very senior club, to partner with us, and they willingly came on board and contributed ₹3 lakh for this project,” he says.
Incidentally DGE Ashok Kantoor (2022–23) is a member of RC Delhi West.
The first challenge the project faced was a physical field trip to inspect the site chosen and determine its suitability. “People were so afraid of leaving their homes, but finally in September 2020, six of us drove to the spot for a physical verification of the site which is about 175 km from Delhi.”
According to the joint assessment, when built this water dam would benefit about 710 households with a population of 4,500 in these villages, with 218 hectares of agricultural land and 4,800 milch animals. The Rotarians found that these villages have small and marginal farmers with a landholding of barely 1–3 acres. Most of them grow onions and some other vegetables, but as their main crop is onion, which is a cash and remunerative crop, luckily these farmers have not been too adversely affected by the pandemic.
When I heard our DG Sanjiv Rai Mehra say that his aim was to construct 1,000 check dams I decided that during my year our club will constructone check dam at a suitable place.
— N K Lamba, IPP, RC Delhi Manthan
“But for their water needs, they depend only on rainwater and there is no other mode of irrigation. They were so happy when we told them about construction of this dam, because earlier somebody else had made a dam nearby, and the water level rose to 100 ft in the region, and in few wells in their village, which were dry for a very long time, the water had already started coming in.”
The Rotarians talked to the villagers and told them that they will have to contribute through labour, to which they willingly agreed. “We talked to the panchayat head and the members and they have ensured us that they will take the responsibility of maintaining this dam,” Lamba added.
With the total involvement of the panchayat sarpanch and the beneficiaries, who through their work contributed about 10 per cent of the final project cost, the dam construction was completed in 75 days. PHDRDF has contributed ₹50,000 for this project which will benefit the villagers.
The Chattanwala dam was completed by April 4, 2021, well in time to receive the monsoon rainwater. “We are happy that our club partnered in this crucial water recharge structure which will provide irrigation to the region’s farmers and recharge the wells of the villagers,” adds Aroon Rungta, IPP, RC Delhi West.
The dam was inaugurated on June 22 and Rotarians from both the clubs led by their presidents Lamba and Roongta, and local leaders participated.