They say the proof of a pudding is in its eating. But sometimes, the proof of the pudding is when others want to not just taste it, but try the recipe themselves. This is exactly what happened when 42-year-old Rajendra Prasad of Bisandi village (Badokher Khurd block of Banda district) observed the successful recharge of a tube well near his house. Last year, a narrow trench was dug to transport all the grey water from the tube well into a recharge pit nearby. “We were all surprised to find that this technique ensured a better supply of water from this tube well even in the dry summer months,” he says. “It made me think, if such a simple measure can ensure an uninterrupted water supply in a single tube well, then why not do it on a larger scale?”
Rajendra Prasad’s chance came when WaterAid India and partner Akhil Bhartiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan ABSSS conceptualised a model rooftop rainwater harvesting system to recharge an old well in the neighbouring village Beni ka Purwa. Built decades ago, the well had been defunct for a while and had become a dumping ground for village waste. Having seen how the tube well recharge pit had worked, Rajendra saw the implications of this plan. “Instead of dirty water, the well would be recharged by fresh rainwater and benefit many more people than the tube well would,” he says, explaining why he offered his services, both paid and voluntary, for the project. “Now, connecting pipes coming down from the roof of a nearby house will carry rainwater to the filtration tank,” he explains. “From there, clean water will recharge the well.”
It is hard work, especially in the humid pre-monsoon heat. But Rajendra Prasad has stripped to his vest and is adding the final touches to the nearly ready recharge pit. What motivates him is the hope that his labour will have a positive impact on lives and livelihoods. Being a farmer, Rajendra Prasad well understands the problems that water scarcity brings. “All the ponds and wells in our village are dry, leaving us solely dependent on tube wells,” he says. “But groundwater levels have receded so much that we have to dig as deep as 150 feet for uninterrupted water supply...” Till ten years ago, he says, groundwater was so abundant that farmers did not even need to water their crops often. Now, he is able to cultivate his field only in winter when crops need less irrigation. “I usually grow vegetables that do not need to be watered more than once in eight days in the winter,” he says. “In summer, when the fields must be watered at least once in five days, I simply can’t afford the cost of irrigation!” Wealthier farmers in the village extract groundwater for irrigation in the summer at rates that vary between Rs 250 and 400 per bigha. “It’s too expensive for me, so I leave my field fallow and make ends meet as a labourer in the summer,” he says.
As clouds gather overhead, he and the other two labourers work with increased urgency but also with a palpable sense of hope. “We barely have two days of work left on this,” he says. “And we’re all committed to getting this rainwater well recharging system up and running!” If nothing else, he believes that the revitalization of wells in this fashion could ensure that people like him have at least one more source of water to depend on. The successful recharging of the tube well in Bisandi has been a source of inspiration for him, he says. “It makes me optimistic that we will definitely be able to revive this well too…”
Rajendra Prasad is being paid Rs 300 per day for his labour, precious income upon which his family of four depends. Yet, he has chosen ‘shramdaan’ donating a day’s labour to the well, no mean task for someone like him. “I believe that we all need to work together for our collective welfare even if it means making some small sacrifices,” he says. “After all, this is not simply an effort to recharge one well – if this works out well, then we can recharge all the wells in this area!”