Vihigaon, Shahapur, is a small tribal village located in Shahapur Taluka of Thane district where VSM has been undertaking rural development projects since 1995. In 2015, to help villagers cope with the acute water shortage they face, Jalashakti Abhiyaan had been conceived and kicked off. On 18th June 2016, it was a heartening moment for all of us as Jalshakti Abhiyaan Phase-II was inaugurated by Dr. Mahendra Kalyankar, the Collector of Thane district.
In the first phase of ‘JALSHAKTI ABHIYAAN’, which was completed in June 2015, two wells as well as a bund was constructed and as a result the wells were found to be filled with water this year in summers. In the second phase of this project, Bharat Vikas Parishad and Tilaknagar Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal joined the efforts. Two bunds were restored at a location further down the same rivulet. A Gabion dam was also constructed during this phase. Two bunds were restored during the phase-II of this project. Once monsoon sets in these dams will hold around 2 lakh litres of water and facilitate irrigation for around 150 acres of farms in Vihigaon. Dr. Kalyankar while appreciating the nature of project execution said, “The current government has over and again stressed on the need for community involvement in development initiatives. The organisations involved in JalshaktiAbhiyaan need to be specially congratulated for ensuring that the project was accomplished through substantial participation and involvement from the locals.”.
Dr. Santosh Thite (Regional Officer), Mr.Avinash Koshti (Tahasildar), Mrs. Kulkarni(Block Development Officer), Mr. Ajay Patil (Tehasil Agricultural Officer) and few other administrative officers also graced the inauguration with their presence.
In spite of being located in Shahapur taluka renowned for its numerous dams, one of the major issues riddling Vihigaon has been ironically that of acute water shortage. It used to experience water woes for almost six months every year. Villagers had to walk about two km daily just to fetch water.
Sharing his experience, Dr. Umesh Mundlye, Director, Oikos Water Management, said, “The average rainfall in this area is very good (2,556.4 mms, which is higher than 2,293.4 mm - the average rainfall of Thane district) but the villagers were without water for six months. We noticed water goes down in the sea without any micro irrigation structures in villages. By various techniques we have diverted this water flow into reservoirs. I appreciate the efforts of villagers especially women who contributed their labour for the project.”
Especially in the month of May, the wells go dry. Due to sloping topography of the area, even the rain water used to drain away and the villagers had to survive through the drought. Three organisations from Dombivli Bharat Vikas Parishad, Tilaknagar Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal and VSM came together to eradicate this water crisis and conceived and implemented Jalshakti Abhiyaan Phase II, with willing participation from the people of Vihigaon. Hydrologist Dr. Umesh Mundle surveyed the abandoned dams and wells and helped us with crucial insights at the beginning of the project.Now that we have completed the phase II of ‘Jalashakti Abhiyaan’, most of the water issues for the residents of Vihigaon would be over.
Hemant Gokhale, convener of Jalashakti Abhiyaan and committee member of Vivekanand Seva Mandal said, “We were thrilled to see in this summer the villagers were spared from standing in long queue for water. This was the result of our work carried in phase I. The second phase work was completed in June 2016 with an objective of making water available for drinking and irrigation. Here we completely re-hauled, repaired and strengthened two abandoned and faulty dams with a water reservoir capacity of 2 lakh litres. This is also expected to provide irrigation for 150 acres land and enough water to tide over the entire summer of next year”.
VSM has decided to implement phase-III of the project in 2017. “Until Vihigoan does’nt become self-sufficient with respect to water these efforts shall continue. Vivekananda Seva Mandal plans similar programmes for nearby villages once done with Vihigaon,” said Mr. Ketan Bondre, President, Vivekananda Seva Mandal.
Inception and execution of this project has been an enriching and fulfilling experience for every organization as well as individuals involved. While sharing experience of Bharat Vikas Parishad during the inauguration, Sudhir Joglekar, Divisional Secretary of Bharat Vikas Parishad said, “Bharat Vikas Parishad works on various aspects of rural development and the JalashaktiAbhiyaan will prove to be one of the milestone achievements.” Whereas Nandan Datar from Tilaknagar Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Manadal highlighted how this project involved participation of numerous well-wishers from Dombivli. He said,”Tilaknagar Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal received donations from devotees for drought-hit villages during the Ganeshotsav. These donations were used for funding this project.”
The local youth and the villagers were the pillars of this campaign. Apart from solving the water crisis employment for the locals was also generated during the course of the Jalshakti Abhiyaan.