Jal Sahelis battle water scarcity and drought in Bundelkhand region
In the drought-prone Bundelkhand region, over 1,300 women are maintaining and restoring water sources. These Jal Sahelis have helped 300 villages to install hand pumps so that women won’t have to go far to take water. The Jal Sahelis have helped 113 villages become water self-sufficient.
The Bundelkhand Region
Bundelkhand region is between the Yamuna and the northern Vindhyan plains of Uttar Pradesh. Banda, Chitrakoot, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Jhansi, Lalitpur, and Mahoba are among its seven districts. With a population of 78 lacks and a land area of 29,000 sq km, the region obtains water from rivers like the Yamuna, Ken, Betwa, Sindh, and Pahuj.
Bundelkhand, well-known for its temples, history, and rich cultural legacy, suffers from water shortages and famine deaths. Around 75% of the population of the region depends on agriculture. Agriculture and livestock together generate 96% of the region’s income due to the absence of industrial development.
The water scarcity in Bundelkhand
The Vision Document for Bundelkhand was formed jointly in 2019 by the 2030 Water Resources Group and Thinkthrough Consulting. If the current scenario continues, Bundelkhand is predicted to be a region with a water shortage by 2030. The region is transitioning from a water-stress level (less than 1,700 cubic meters per capita) to one of a water shortage level (less than 1000 cubic meters per capita).
Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) and Jan Kendrit Vikas Manch (a network of NGOs in Bundelkhand) have remarked that tree cutting, excessive use of chemical fertilizers, and soil erosion contributed to the degradation of traditional water storage and decreased capacity to store water. The granite-dominated rough landscape and steep slope serve as a barrier to efficient groundwater recharging.
The Jal Saheli Project
The 1,300 Jal Sahelis wear blue sarees while working in the Bundelkhand districts of Jhansi, Lalitpur, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Chhatrapur, Titamgarh, and Mewari.
These female water protectors, known as Jal Sahelis, have helped 113 villages in seven (out of 13) districts of Bundelkand become water self-sufficient. They also played a crucial role in installing hand pumps in more than 300 villages.
All of this has been made possible by the volunteers and training staff of Parmarth. They first joined Parmarth in 2011 and established Pani Panchayat Samitis in every village to raise awareness of the need for access to clean water and water body conservation and revitalization. The water fight necessitates the existence of pani panchayats. Twenty to thirty people, both men, and women, joined each Pani Panchayat. These members propose four or five women to serve as Jal Sahelis, who oversees the execution of water-related projects in their area.
In Bundelkhand, Jal Sahelis have worked to revitalize several waterways, including the Kaneri, Barua, and Bachedi rivers.
Women are becoming micro-entrepreneurs by launching home-based enterprises like picking pickles, papads, etc., due to increasing awareness. The water table has also risen along with higher wages, improved livelihoods, and food security. Earlier, young girls helped to procure water for the family. Now that water is available. They can attend school, which is a significant accomplishment. The daughters won’t experience the same suffering as old villagers experienced. Water in Bundelkhand village, a once-impossible dream, is now a reality.
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