Salty but Sweet, Arid but Awakening, Sandy but Stimulating
If you are asked to name a river in Kutch in Gujarat, you would wonder if there exists any. Kutch at the time of the Alexander the Great and King Poras, Kutch was all sea. Now it is salt-desert. But it does have rivers.
One of them is theRukmavati Riverwhich empties into theArabian Sea Mandvi, an ancient port town, is located on the banks of this river just at the mouth where it meets the Arabian Sea near the Gulf of Kutch.
Mapping the banks of these rivers which are flooded during rains only, helps in fetching the fresh water on sustainable basis for the people there. An initiative by the Vivekanand Research & Training Institute, (VRTI) Kutch, Gujarat did exactly that, and much more. That won them Earth Care Award of JSW and Times of India.
As a member of the jury, I was astonished to read and see how the NGOs work in arid, salty hot and humid land and help the communities setting the example of sustainability.
The project has successfully demonstrated aquifer mapping-based watersheds, and integrated rural development interventions in the river basin area of 600 km2 of the River Rukmavati. Like the solid rock on which Swami Vivekanand did his meditation, the volunteers from VRTI, established in 1975, meditated in Desert of Kutch to fetch the ground water for the community-along the banks of 50 km length of river.
Arid Technology and Community, another NGO, partnered with VRTI to carry out hydrogeological study, of the river basin from origin to the mouth of the river.
Surface water storage, recharging for drinking water, judicious use of ground water, participatory aquifer management, micro watershed development, roof top rain water harvesting, salinity prevention activities, roof top rain ware harvesting for drinking water were developed and practiced by the communities.
And what is outcome?
New term of ‘Para Engineers’ in line with ‘Para medics’ was assigned to the volunteers who helped design the check dams, carry out agricultural extension, animal husbandry, rural marketing.
At the mouth of the river, seaweed like Kapaficus, Sargassum are cultivated by fisher women from Salay Village The seaweed is harvested and processed to prepare Herbovita which is used as fertilizer.
The Para Engineers and mentors are helping develop market linkages for the Rukmavati Farmer’s Producer Company. They have tied up with Agrocel company for provision of drip irrigation and natural fertilizers to member farmers.
- The project interventions directly benefit about 10,000 farmers from 55 villages.
- 107 new rain water harvesting structures created benefiting 1692 farmers
- 3784 Ha of lands now under irrigation.
- Drip irrigation adopted over 4100 Ha, resulting in 50% saving in irrigation water.
- Desilting of existing structures has benefited 485 farmers, 625 Ha area received fertile silt
- Pasture land developed over 540 Ha, providing fodder security and 20% increase in income by dairy
- Horticultural plantation is adopted over 983 Ha
Mitigation benefits -exemplary.
- CO2 sequestration enhanced by 113,722 MT per year in 2014 (2009 as baseline) in the whole basin. This is a 21% increase in sequestered CO2
Amazing and far reaching Partnerships
- Agriculture Department, Government of Gujarat
- Florida Agriculture & Mechanical University' for the 'Farmer to Farmer’ training programme,
- Anand Agriculture University, Junagadh Agriculture University, ATMA
- National Council for Climate Change & Sustainable Development, (NCCSD) Ahmedabad
- Indian Centre for Climate and Societal Impacts Research (ICCSIR) for sequestration Studies
- Arid Communities and Technologies (ACT) for participatory aquifer management
By Rajendra Shende, Chairman TERRE Policy Centre, Formewr Director UNEP and IIT Alumnus.