In a primarily agricultural-based economy such as India, farmers have always required a continuous assistance of resources and further maintenance of the same. Jharkhand's Khunti district has in the past decades seen a lot of deforestation and it resulted in huge damage to the environment despite a sizeable number of small and medium sized water bodies for crops.
Water conservation methods from the governments have also brought on little success but the situation started to improve after the introduction of a simple yet innovative concept of low-cost check dams or bori bandhs, as they are locally known as.
A brainchild of Ajay Sharma, the founder of NGO Sewa Welfare Society, the dams were started in 2018 and two years down, they have managed to significantly solve the problem of water scarcity and also helped farmers to save water for their crops, helping at least 8,000 ryots across 70 villages in the district, a report by The Better India said.
The bori bandhs are a very simple concept. The contractors while providing cement often leave gunny bags and the same bags were reused after filling them with sand or soil and used to make embankments. They are usually made on small rivulets and other water bodies and are usually 30 feet wide wherein the gunny bags filled with sand and soil are put atop one another and adjacent to halt the flow of the water. Along with soil or sand, grass also manages to tighten the hold of the dam. They last longer and need little repair work over the years.
The idea of a community is primal to a village and Sharma reportedly managed to use that to help the villagers help themselves. Borrowing from their own concept of Madait, which involved locals coming together to share a meal together after a positive outcome, he made the villagers come together to celebrate the success of the embankment building.
The journey hasn't been an easy one. What started off with the hope of funding the cause at a mere Rs 2,000 slowly started catching on and the money that was collected went on to buy groceries for those building the dams. It wasn't an easy path, but Shama eventually managed to convince some of the locals to build 5 bori bandhs in the Tapkara block in the summer months of 2018. It helped to save rainwater during the monsoon and that inspired several other locals in the nearby villages to volunteer to do the same for their fields and local water bodies as well.
The villagers built 118 dams in 2019 but last year due to the pandemic situation, they could only manage to build 40 bori bandhs.
The villagers have reaped immensely from the bori bandhs as after the first crop is harvested, due to the stored water, the farmers can stay engaged in agriculture and thus increase crop production which helps them financially rather than being unemployed. Earlier where they just used to grow traditional crops like paddy, wheat and mustard, they are now able to grow more crops such as corn, watermelon and other vegetable produce.
Sharma's efforts have attracted the attention of the Union Jal Shakti Ministry as well who feted him with an award of excellence and also earned rave reviews from the local district administration for his continued efforts to better the lives of the villagers.