(Those who do farming are the ones who lead a true life, every one else are dependent on them for their lives).. so wrote the Tamil Poet and Saint Thiruvalluvar over 2000 years ago. Ensuring adequate water supply is the lifeline for agriculture. I am running the Delhi Full Marathon on Feb 23rd 2020 and raising money for the Check dam project of the farmers of the Bodhamalai region (near Salem, Tamil Nadu, India). Details below. Please support the farmers
30 years ago, things were flourishing for the farmers in the Bodhamalai region. Groundwater, which is the major source of water for agriculture and other purposes here, was abundant. Groundwater was well accessible from within a depth of 50 feet. The major source of groundwater recharge in this area is the stream/runoff from the Mallur Reserve Forest. These forests exists over hilly regions and water from here flows down to the foothills where these villagers reside. There is a small lake, which gets its water from the hills too. More than 5 check dams existed in the area around the lake with the purpose of storing water and allowing it to recharge ground water.
Current Situation: However, in the recent years, erosion and flash floods have taken their toll on these check dams. A lot of silt and sand deposits from the hills is also impeding their capabilities of holding water. Adding to the woes, the sidewalls of some of the check dams are broken or eroded. A lot of the water from the hills now cannot be retained at the foothills and flows away without being able to percolate into groundwater levels. Groundwater level has now dropped from 50ft (30 years ago) to more than 1000 feet below surface! This is a huge concern for the farmers, who without proper water supply will not be able to cultivate their lands. There are more than 1000 such farmers from around the 20 small villages around the foothills. Uncertainty looms over their livelihood and their only hope now is proper rebuilding and repair of the check dams.
Plan: Plan is to rebuild these check dams and to also construct side bunds around them for better retention of runoff water. The project plan involves reconstructing broken dam walls, raising their height, de-silting of the region inside these dams, creating side bunds around various strategic locations around the dam as well as digging up recharge pits at specific points so as to enable better percolation of water. This is a solution that will enable more runoff water to be retained and for the water to have more time to penetrate into groundwater levels. The recharge pits would also serve to enable faster absorption of water into the earth. This would be a long run, tactical solution to the issue of falling ground water levels here. As a result, the water supply for farming will be abundant and hence, 20 villages as well as the neighboring town of Rasipuram (famous for its silk sarees) would benefit from this project.
Latest Status: Phase1: Desilting and widening work has been completed for 4 check dams and the Percolation Pond.
Financial Status: We have totally spent Rs. 12.61 lakhs on phase 1 out of which we have collected Rs. 8.86 lakhs from local villagers, local trust and NGOs. My friend and fellow Zen Runner Bhushan Walzade did the full ironman and raised INR 2.8 lakhs. For Phase 2 the focus is on strengthening the bunds and deepening the Check dams which will help store more water. I plan to raise INR 5 lakhs to help execute Phase 2