While the country battles with drought, know how 'farm ponds' are bringing prosperity to farmers of Dewas, MPShruthi Mohan
It’s not a hidden fact that the country faces a huge water deficit today. From the drought-hit Marathwada district of Gujarat to the dry villages in Bihar, scarcity of water has today topped the ‘worry list’ of both the citizens and the government. This raging depletion has been one of the reasons why Indian farmers are committing suicide across the nation, and there is an increasing number of deaths due to heat stroke.
Though the government and other bodies have been instrumental in bringing some initiatives and plans to fight the issue, the dent they are trying to fill is still mind-bogglingly big. Even if the government resolves the problem at a very creamy upper layer, the ground-level reconstruction is crucial to mitigate all the damage.
Calling for a mass movement for water conservation, people in Madhya Pradesh’s Dewas district are building farm ponds. The district, which grappled with water scarcity in a drought year, has, today, started a movement to dig farm ponds. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently lauded their efforts in his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’.
Through their collective efforts, this village has built 27 farm ponds resulting in improved groundwater level. It also resulted in increase in farm yield by about 20 percent. Madhya Pradesh Higher Education Commissioner Umakant Umrao, the brain behind the construction of farm ponds in Dewas, said he was very happy with Prime Minister acknowledging the drive. It is also a proud movement for the Dewas farmers, he said.
Umrao recalled how when he was the Dewas collector from January 2006 to July 2007, he motivated farmers to build ponds. Of the initial struggle to be taken seriously, Umrao said,
We only provided logistical support. Farmers pooled money, energy and land. It paid off. When I was the collector, some 2,000 ponds were built and now the number has risen to 10,000, I am told, Umrao added. Banks didn’t give loans for constructing ponds then. Later, after providing huge security, banks gave loans to farmers under price lending rate which was as high at 17 percent. All the farmers who took the loan repaid it.
What are farm ponds?
A farm pond is a large hole dug out in the earth, usually square or rectangular in shape, to harvest rainwater and store it for future use. It has an inlet to regulate inflow and an outlet to discharge excess water. Farmers build ponds for many reasons: irrigation, water for livestock, fire protection, erosion control, aquaculture, wildlife value, recreation and aesthetics. The size and depth depend on the amount of land available, type of soil, the farmer’s water requirements, cost of excavation, and the possible uses of the excavated earth. Water from the farm pond is conveyed to the fields manually, by pumping, or by both methods.
Location and excavation
The selection of a site for a farm pond is critical in maximising its storage capacity. The slope of the land and the slope’s direction must also be carefully evaluated. A test pit is dug out before finalising the location and depth of excavation. The excavation and transportation of earth can be accomplished with a combination of manual labour or with machines like excavators and tractors.
Soil conditions must be carefully considered. Use of machines for excavation and transportation is the best method in this context, with human labour used for levelling, bund formation, and construction.
Both practical and idyllic, farm ponds are a dream for many newbie farmers. Clear, clean water surrounded by lush grasses and perhaps a weeping willow tree may be the image that first comes to mind, but achieving that dream is often a costly and complex affair, if possible at all. But you’ll know if it’s feasible if you understand the lay of your land, the way water moves through it and the basic requirements for building a pond.
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While most of India continues to fight through the most severe drought we have seen in decades, there are predictions that a good monsoon this year will bring some relief. However, what is more important is to acknowledge that climate change is a major problem and that water in the days to come will continue to be a scarce resource. The farm ponds of Deewas have proven to be a meaningful step forward to capture and hold rain water in a distributed manner, which farmers can locally implement. We hope that governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders will come forward and support our farmers by building more such farm ponds in the days to come.