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Home > Policy & Practices > Rainwater harvesting and water management reduces drudgery

Rainwater harvesting and water management reduces drudgery


Uttarakhand: Abode of all rivers, the hilly regions of Uttarakhand are nevertheless beset by water scarcity. Villagers in districts Almora and Nainital are taking up roof rainwater harvesting with the help of a local organisation. Climate change, with erratic rainfall, higher temperatures, delayed snowfall and early drying of ponds, has further aggravated the problem. Rainwater harvesting has helped conserve water during monsoons for later use and also controlled soil erosion. Till now, about 200 roof rainwater harvesting tanks have been established for collecting rain water. The concept of polyline tanks was introduced in 2003. These tanks are cost effective and, if established properly, are more durable than stone masonry tanks.

In addition, since 2008, natural earthen ponds, micro-reservoirs, of different sizes have been created in 30 villages. These are playing significant role in water recharging of down springs and also reducing soil erosion during rains. The ponds are also retaining moisture in the surroundings for optimum growth of plants and fodder. Over four years, this activity has recharged the downhill mountain springs and streams from which villagers get their drinking water.

From a Gender Lens

Together, these water harvesting bodies fulfil all the household water requirements, including making water available for livelihoods. The time saved due to availability of water at the doorstep is used in other productive activities such as growing cash crops in Uttarakhand and mixed farming in West Bengal. This initiative also reduces the drudgery of women for they don’t have to walk miles and spend hours to fetch water every day. Water helps them grow fodder and fuelwood trees around their homes. Water harvesting has helped reduce out-migration by able-bodied men. 

Access to water benefits the family but women put in more time and labour than men in growing fruits and vegetables. In West Bengal, women also do inland fishing on the land around their home by making a small pond. Yet, women do not have access to financial resources to fund these activities. Access to credit remains easier for men. Women are rarely active members of local Panchayats and so are unable to source benefits like seeds, manure from government schemes. Women do not own land on which they work and so cannot always decide the mix of crops or resilient strategies to adopt unless their spouses also agree with what they want to do. 

Policy Options

Gram Panchayats must include rainwater harvesting structures as adaptive measures in their village development plans. Panchayats can also motivate women self-help groups to take up this activity by providing financial and technical assistance and seeds and other inputs to small and marginal women farmers and agricultural labourers. The latter can make water sources around their homes and also grow food crops in their yards. Gram Panchayats must also promote giving ownership rights or long leases over water harvested ponds to women’s groups so that the latter can manage them well. Common property resources must also be utilized for water harvesting by gram panchayats.

Roof rainwater harvesting structures must be made mandatory and provided for as part of the funds given to poor women to build their house under the government’s Indira Awas Yojana. Agricultural loans can earmark a portion of the loan for rainwater harvesting structures to ensure that farmers have water to irrigate their land and can pay the loan back. Women’s groups should be given these loans on priority basis and as part of the Central government’s Financial Inclusion initiative.

Further Reading

1.    Resource organisations: CHEA
(www.cheaindia.org) and DRCSC (www.drcsc.org)