Tuesday, 25 August 2015

A cattle pond completed : a story of community initiative

In a series of consultations with  farmers from all the hamlets of the E. Palaguttapalli Panchayat in January, the cattle pond was prioritised in this drought. Cattle have no water and fodder in this killing drought.

The Panchayat has been facing an acute water crisis and drinking water is being provided through tankers since the last two to three years, at 8 pots per family per day. This has to address the cooking and bathing and washing needs of the family as well as to provide for the cattle. So there was little water left for the cattle, especially when they went out for grazing. A cow typically needs three pots of water a day ! So the farmers decided that  as a priority we should expand the capacity of a tiny water body, some water collecting at the bottom of a sheet rock slope. This tiny water body was being used by cattle for drinking and washerman family for washing clothes. This pond would dry up soon after the monsoon, by December-January. The farmers thought if they built a small wall around this water body, more water can be stored and there would be more water for the catlle (as well as for the washerman who are now buying water). 

An engineer was contacted to examine the plan and the parameters, and after due consultations the project was grounded. An earthen bund wall, although would have been cheaper, it was not possible as earth will not stay glue to/ over a sheet rock. The wall had to be in concrete. Although this would push up the cost, after due consultations, a concrete wall was considered necessary and inevitable. One of the villagers, Shri. Sudhakar who has been living in Tirupati promised and promptly delivered 100 bags of cement, costing Rs. 35,000. After this money was tapped from other sources.

The mud which had collected at the bottom of the slope had to be cleared first with a JCB and pushed out and manual labour had to be employed for thorough removal of the mud. Holes were drilled on the sheet rock for building the wall. Just when the concreting was about to start, there was rain and within just a few days the pond had filled up with water weeds. The rain water had to be pumped out and that took some time because the motor and power had to be arranged. One farmer came forward to lend his pump and power was drawn from existing lines but form a garden some distance away, and water was pumped out . All this took a few weeks. Then the foundation was laid with village workers.
But it was felt that the workers were not used to construction work, they were too slow for the purpose. So a construction labour group was contacted and they brought construction materials as well as professional workers and the wall was erected.

Then it was felt if the pond is not fenced, cattle would come in indiscriminately and dirty the pond with dung and urine. This would not be a problem if the pond was on mud terrain, as dung and dirt would settle down at the bottom of the pond. But since this was sheet rock, dung and dirt would ferment and  contaminate the water and soon even cattle would not want to drink it. Therefore a barbed wire fence was considered and pillars were put up around the pond for the barbed wire fence. It was proposed that entry for cattle would be restricted to summer months only. A small trough would be built outside so that cattle can drink from it. The fence and the trough are still to be erected.

In the meantime it was also noticed that a few days ago some pilgrims to Tirumala who walk through the village had descended on the pond and had a nice bath using soap and shampoo, and washed clothes! Some people were also bringing their motor vehicles, like motor bikes, tractors, etc.  and giving them a wash at the pond! All these confirmed the necessity for a fence. Now we have to raise funds for the same. It was decided to write on the wall of the pond a strict notice prohibiting such activities.

On Aug 21,  The Spl. Chief Secretary, Agriculture, GOAP Shri, T. Vijaya kumar and the Collector, Shri. Siddhrtha Jain  visited the village and the farmers got the pond officially inaugurated by them. 

The previous night and on the same day there had been heavy downpour, and it was found that water from the eastern side  was escaping, not flowing into the pond. It was decided to get this rectified through shram daan the next day. The next morning a few farmers gathered with crowbars, spades and knives and worked to divert the water duly into the pond.

The  farmers did the shram daan,  cracking a lot of jokes and pulling each others’ legs. Spirits were high:  a task had been accomplished, rains had come, water had come into the pond to a height of two feet, the Collector and Chief Secretary had promised support through govt. schemes.  There was optimism.

(writeup courtsey Uma Shankari garu.)

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