In the month of February 2016, we had visited on our the new school at Barafpada. This is our 11th school at Vikramgad region. During this visit, we realised that this village and in then had no good access to water after January. This led is to think on how can we help them. In one of the visit of medical checkup our water management mentor, Shri Rashmin Sanghvi, obliged to join is for guidance on the subject. This visit gave us direction of building up of check dam and also other ways of water conversation.
As per our intention to work on water related project, we had taken villagers from three villages (Kaspada, Palavalpada and Barafpada) along with one of the teacher representative from the school to Dharampur in Gujarat. In Dharampur region, organisations such as Vanpath Trust have supported building up of more than 700 check dams. In this visit, we wanted villagers to look at check dams, interact with locals to understand its benefit and relate with issues in their own villages. This visit was done on 7th April 2016.
In a meeting of 9th April 2016 with Mr Rashmin Sanghvi, our water conservation project mentor, it came to notice that we would have only 1.5 months before any project can be completed in this year. Check dams can be built only before monsoon starts. It was decided to take up this initiative on war footing.
Though we had shortlisted 3 villages to work on water project, Barafpada village had hardly 10% people left on the village to work on any of the project. They had gone out of the area in search of jobs. Hence, we decided to take up Kaspada for this project.
In Kaspada, there were 4 check dams built by government few years back and were not effective for the required purpose anymore. Though the problem is not a severe as other states of Maharashtra, like Latur, however, it may not be very far before it reached to that level of no action is taken. Even today, few people have to walk 2 kms to wash clothes! Animals also suffer due to shortage of water.
A meeting was taken up with villagers from Kaspada to know if building up of check dam would help resolve their water challenges. Though Suhrid Foundation was willing to support, the decision of taking up this project was to be of villagers. Team Suhrid discussed dam building process, required material, and operational model (how Suhrid Foundation would support it) was discussed. Suhrid Foundation working model was once again explained – that none of the work carried out would be without participation from the village. Daily wages of Rs 200 was finalized – out of which only Rs 100 would be contributed by Suhrid Foundation – that also would be in kind. This would be given to them in the form of grains, pulses, oil, sugar etc as per their needs.
We had clear consensus in the meeting. Team Suhrid requested present villagers to further discuss it in their larger meeting of all clusters in the village and communicate final decision to Team Suhrid.
This being first project, all stakeholders including villagers, Team Suhrid had to understand how dams are built and other nuances related to this. Team Suhrid visited Dharampur on 16-17th April 2016. Key team members of Vanpath Trust (Shri Santubhai) arranged entire tour and demonstration of check dam building. We learned that people have started seeing water in the dams in the summer in mid-April which was a distant dream, people could think of harvesting mangoes in their otherwise barren land, kids could get pond to swim and bathe. All this was possible by stopping water with checkdam and recharging nearby wells.
We also got opportunity to meet with a very passionate couple and trustees of Vanpath Trust, Shri Bhikhubhai Vyas and Kokilaben Vyas. They have stay put in the tribal region of Dharampur in last 27 years – dedicating their lives to upliftment of tribals. They have established few schools in the region, maintain a girls hostel and are very committed to growth of the children they are responsible for. While doing this, they have helped tribals to build more than 700 check dams, supporting to do better farming etc. Inspired by their commitment, team Suhrid decided to visit them back sometime in July 16 once again to spend more time with them and learn.
Finally, it was concluded that existing check dam built by government agencies would be strengthened along with desilting of riverbed. In this work, villagers would do 50% by Shramdaan and 50% would be supported by Suhrid Foundation. This was decided along with Kaspada and nearby villages, Kaspada school teachers and team Suhrid. It was decided that on Tuesday, 19-April-2016 would be a good day for laying a stone for the work to start on this project.