Located in the Thar Desert bio-geographic zone, recording a meagre 500 mm or less of rainfall per year, the Kutch district of Gujarat has already been labelled—officially—as a water-stressed region. Covered with salt marshes (or ranns as they are popularly known), the land here remains submerged during the monsoons, then turns into vast tracts of arid plains for rest of the year. The traditional Rann dwellers knew that to prevent fresh rainwater—a rare commodity–flow off unused, it was critical to get the water equation absolutely right. That they needed a very finely balanced system of water supply and distribution to run a healthy economy. And that rainfall had to be captured where it fell…locally. Coastal Gujarat Power Limited (CGPL), the wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Power Company, uses this lesson from the past as the basic tenet of Project Varsha, an initiative to tackle the water woes of the people living in Modhva and Mandvi Taluka of Kutch. The area lies within the site of CGPL’s flagship scheme, the 4000 MW Mundra Ultra Mega Power Project.
This cluster of villages is perennially threatened by acute water crisis. People living here use ground water wells as the main source of drinking water. Most of these wells are shallow and are turning saline due to their proximity to sea water. As if this was not enough, an abundance of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) has been identified in the water here. Little surprise, therefore, that there is a high incidence of water borne diseases in the region.
The water woes don’t end here. In some of the villages, the wells or the pipelines that bring in government-supplied water to these households, are located miles away. And the women spend many hours walking to and fro just to fetch their family’s daily quota.
Water, therefore, poses a formidable challenge for all bodies of authority— an elected government in charge of its electorate or a corporate entity responsible for the communities living in and around its project site. CGPL has declared ‘ensuring supply of safe drinking water to the community as its key initiative and has designed Project Varsha as a tool to implement this ambitious task. Its strategy is to harvest the fresh, clean rainwater and store it for household purposes, including drinking; and/or to use it directly to recharge the receding ground water table.
CGPL has set up 41 roof rainwater harvesting structures in Modhva village. Besides this, it has renovated and built several checkdams, ponds and water bodies, in a bid to recharge ground water levels. This process helps to improve the quality and flow of water in the borewells and open wells in adjacent villages, thereby benefitting hundreds of rural households.
While it is too early to guage its impact on Kutch’s severely damaged water resources, the villagers are certainly savouring the long forgotten taste of fresh, clean water, which, more significantly, could be available at home, without having to walk miles to fetch.
Says Suleman, resident of Modhva village, who heads a family of 18, ‘The facility supports the entire family. We use the water exclusively for drinking purposes throughout the year. My family is extremely grateful for this.”
Reflections report, 2014-2015, page 38