Population growth and an increasing vulnerability to climate change means that India faces an uphill task in effectively and efficiently tackling its water problems. World Resources Institute (WRI) research has shown that almost 54 percent of India faces high to extremely high water stress, and resulting in heightened agrarian distress in the country.
India’s National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, NABARD, launched a Water Campaign on 22nd March 2017, aimed at covering around 1,00,000 villages across 200 districts in vulnerable and water stressed areas in the country. The main objective of the campaign is to reach out to the rural communities to promote awareness around the need for conservation, preservation, and the efficient use of water resources. To that end, issues such as rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge, and better agronomic and irrigation (more crop per drop) practices will be promoted. For this initiative, NABARD has partnered with the Centre for Environment Education (CEE), World Resources Institute, and several local NGOs.
As part of this initiative, a ‘Day in a Village Campaign’ will be organised in all the villages by the appointed Krishi Jaldoots (water ambassadors) in each district. The water ambassadors will be selected from local farmers and individuals with a good grasp and knowledge of the problems of their respective areas. The Jaldoots will interact with the villagers and spread awareness using various communication aids including posters, visual documentaries, street theater, and folk art. A Jal Samvaad has also been planned, which is an interactive forum for group discussion focusing on water-related issues, and identifying local best practices and solutions to tackle them. The session will also educate the villagers about various government initiatives and schemes focusing on water and agriculture.
A resource mapping exercise will be conducted in the target villages. This will help identify key water structures in the villages, their existing status, renovation needs of existing infrastructure, and innovative solutions to address the water issues of the village. The locally generated information will be uploaded on a mobile app, developed by CEE and NABARD. The aim is to create a Water for Agriculture Resource Map, with input from the villagers, which will help local panchayats, NGOs, banks and other agencies undertake activities for water conservation through government schemes, like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA).
One of the target states under NABARD’s Water Mission is Tamil Nadu, a state with a long history of acute problems of drought and water shortage, and continued water disputes with its neighboring states. State authorities believe water conservation is an important area of focus, and have been trying to spread awareness regarding the same. The regional office of NABARD in Chennai held a training program on 19th May, 2017 as part of the Water Campaign, which was attended by District Development Managers (DDMs) from the 16 districts of Tamil Nadu selected for the campaign, as well as various NGO members, and other experts and officials from the agricultural domain. Shri Nagoor Ali Jinnah, Chief General Manager of the Chennai Regional Office, inaugurated the workshop. Shrimati Mildred Xess, General Manager and Dr. V. Mashar, the Deputy General Manager of NABARD, provided an overview of the purpose, approaches and expected outcomes of the campaign. Dr. Nambi Appadurai of WRI in his opening remarks outlined the importance of water security in the context of Tamil Nadu state, relevance of the initiative and WRI’s role in this endeavor, while Ms. Rejini from CEE gave a snapshot of the design and process of the program. WRI and CEE took active part in subsequent deliberations.
WRI will be involved in effectively communicating and generating key messages from the Water Campaign for mass circulation and awareness. The outputs generated from this campaign like the resource maps, good water management practices and emerging livelihood options and investment potentials would inform and help shape WRI’s ongoing efforts to climate proof NABARD’s Potentially Liked Plans (PLPs) for select districts of Tamil Nadu. The PLPs trace out credit plans for the year 2016-2017 in key areas like agricultural infrastructure, farm credit and renewable energy, among others. There is a huge potential to develop effective climate change adaptation practices through bringing in the right kind of investment and ensuring adoption of sound techniques in areas such as irrigation, planting of crops, and animal husbandry. WRI will work to incorporate cost-effective climate adaptation strategies with mitigation co-benefits in the selected districts. One of the aims of this exercise is to provide a good framework for scaling up such ground level practices on a larger scale in future.
In the context of the water campaign, WRI would also help in monitoring the progress and success of the campaign through specifically devised indicators focusing on knowledge dissemination to farmers, enhanced credit flow in creation of water infrastructure, increase in area of irrigation and improvement in farmers’ overall income in Tamil Nadu.
Through this initiative, WRI hopes to support NABARD in its mission to find people-centric solutions for managing water stress in India, an important step in the country’s development agenda.