Reviving traditional water structures

Integrated water management for poverty reduction amongst marginalized
communities in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand


Water management has an important role to play in pushing rural people out of vicious poverty cycle. Different regions in India have to struggle every year either with water abundances like floods or water scarcity like drought, dry spells. Common
challenges of these areas include:
a) Recurrent drought in Bundelkhand (both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh districts) region and Jharkhand leading to agricultural loss and food insecurity;
b) Recurring floods in North Bihar leading to agricultural loss and food insecurity;
c) The decline of traditional water harvesting systems: Chandela and Bundela tanks in Bundelkhand, ahar pynes in Jharkhand and disappearance of traditional water reservoirs and dug wells in flood-affected regions of Bihar;
d) Loss of livelihood, the perpetuation of poverty and inequity; and,
e) Lack of access to government programmes.

Funded by the European Union, the project was implemented during 2011-2015. It has addressed two different sets of water management problems in five districts across three states: Drought in Tikamgarh and Chattarpur districts of the Bundelkhand region in Madhya Pradesh and Palamu district in Jharkhand, and floods in flood-prone districts of Madhubani and Saupaulin North Bihar. In all 30 panchayats and 71 villages were covered.


The project was implemented by Welthungerhilfe in
partnership with (i) Ghoghardiha Prakhand Swarajya Vikas Sangh (GPSVS) in Bihar; (ii) Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan in Madhya Pradesh; and (iii) Sampurna Gram Vikas Kendra in Jharkhand. Other stakeholders involved in the project included the villagers and their community institutions, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and relevant government departments.


The interventions sought to address core problems around lack of water for agriculture, drinking water and sanitation and poor water quality. Steps were undertaken so as to have dual impact in terms of addressing the problem locally and
influencing policy at the higher level. The key elements of the
project strategy included:
• Community management and ownership;
• Using traditional knowledge coupled with modern science;
• Convergence with government programmes; and,
• Development of water conserving assets.

The interventions were initiated in 2011. Community-based institutions like Pani Panchayats, village development committees, self-help groups, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) committees and kisan clubs were formed and their
capacities were enhanced.

Villagers were informed about their entitlements and Central/ State Government development programmes. Multi-stakeholder linkages were brought together and
meetings were organised with Government and Panchayat functionaries for convergence and scaling up.

Integrated water resource management models promoting rainwater harvesting, surface water conservation, groundwater recharge, water use efficiency in agriculture, eco-sanitation and improved water quality were set up. The emphasis was laid on reviving farmer managed traditional irrigation systems, particularly the ahar pyne in Jharkhand,
the Chandela tanks in Bundelkhand and, dugwells and ponds in Bihar, most of which were damaged due to encroachment and lack of maintenance.

These systems have been socially accepted as they have the ease to be implemented, maintained, sustained and provide an affordable solution for the target group to meet
irrigation and drinking water needs without exploiting the groundwater. These models have been taken up with tremendous support from community and promise of
scaling up under Government programmes. Micro irrigation systems, filter for removing iron, rainwater harvesting models for drinking purposes and low cost ECOSAN toilets were demonstrated as well.

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