Saturday, March 31, 2012

Demystifying Village ‘Dhaanis’ in Peri-urban Gurgaon – Insights from Jhanjhrola Khera

Jhanjhrola Khera, one of the intervention villages in Gurgaon, has about 50 households located in the village fields/agricultural land, away from the main settlement area of the village. These settlements are called ‘Dhaani’ as per the local dialect. As a researcher, one always wonders what led to such settlement pattern, when it happened, what status do they have in terms of voting rights, how is the settlement named, where is it located etc.

In Jhanjhrola Khera, settlement of people in Dhaani has taken place over last 10-15 to 50 years. Also, not all 50 households are located at same place. They are divided across 15 small groups, each comprising of 3-4 households. In terms of caste composition, Yadavs are in preponderance, with close to 46-47 houses. Pandit, Jaat and Rajput community have a single household each. In terms of access to main roads, people can either go to the adjacent village viz. Mubarakpur, or take the highway and reach Sultanpur village or walk down through the settlement area of Jhanjhrola Khera. In terms of voting right, these households belong to a specific ward number from the village and are allowed to cast votes. Their access to water is through the same water supply pipeline that supplies to Jhanjhrola Khera, Sultanpur, Iqbalpur and Mubarakpur. In order to understand the flow of water with respect to Jhanjhrola Khera Dhaani, one needs to know that water first reaches Jhanjhrola Khera. The main pipeline that supplies to Jhanjhrola Khera goes further ahead and supplies to Mubarakpur. Jhanjhrola Khera Dhaani is in between these two villages. So, households have taken connections from this pipeline in order to meet their daily water demand. One may wonder, if the village Dhaanis exercise same level of rights, as the main village, in case the water supply system fails!

Settlement of people in these Dhaanis has been driven by numerous factors. For instance, farmers who had smaller plots in the village settlement area, decided to settle down in their own agricultural land, which were big and thus allowed more individuals to live together in a family. Thus, increase in family size could also be a factor that has led to settlement of people in Dhaani. Farmers whose agriculture fields were far away from the village, also moved to the village Dhaani. This way, they could save the time needed to reach their fields. It also saved time needed by women to carry lunch to their family members working in fields. Carrying fodder also became easier. As per a farmer from the village, people who did not mingle much with other villagers, also decided to settle down in Dhaani. Apart from these factors, movement of people to Dhaanis have also been driven by easier access to sweet water. A common remark from people, when asked about how they used to access drinking water in past is, “pehle to hum kheton se paani bhar laaya karte the”, i.e. we used to fetch water from the fields. In Sultanpur, a nearby village, settlement of people outside the official village settlement area, has been solely driven by availability of sweet water! Thus, availability and access to water is another important factor that is responsible for movement of people to village Dhaani.  

Being an integral part of any village, Dhaanis do have interesting dynamics associated with them, especially in terms of their access to resources. Thus, it is important to take them into consideration and understand these dynamics, as part of research work.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rivers for Life - Peoples’ Voice in the Southwest Region of Bangladesh

By Uthpal Kumar

Conservation of river ecosystems is now one of the biggest demands for water and food security in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh. I attended a regional seminar held at Hotel Castle Salam in Khulna on 19th March 2012 where I found that people of Khulna are now well motivated and also organized to save the coastal river. Representatives from about 40 government, non-government, education and research institutes attended this seminar to find out some practical strategies and actions points for conserving the coastal rivers for peoples’ survival and sustain growth in the region. Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) arranged this seminar on behalf of peoples’ interest and for protecting the river ecosystem of the southwest region. In the seminar, famous local activists like Prof. Zafar Imam, Prof. Anuwarul Kadir, Advocate Firoz Ahmed, and elected political leaders discussed ways of protecting coastal rivers from environmental degradation and water logging problems in the region. Activist Mr. Anil Biswas presented the key note speech in the seminar.  
Activists in a national seminar discussing the importance and ways to save the coastal rivers for protecting people and ecosystems in the southwest region of Bangladesh. (Photo: Mr. Mahfuzur Rahman Mukul)
In the discussion session the audience said that once the southwest coastal region was a very resourceful region but now it has been a degraded zone due to environmental pollution and degradation of the coastal ecosystem by anthropogenic means. Faulty or unplanned development strategies are mainly responsible for destroying this regional ecological balance, as noted by the local activists and civil society representatives in the seminar. The speaker also marked that development agencies had their own business plan due to which the coastal ecosystem is under tremendous threats for life and livelihoods of the coastal people. He also said that. “our rivers are like our blood circulation system, without it we cannot live or sustain”. Other speakers in this large forum also discussed the impact of urbanization and climate change on rivers situated at Khulna and its periphery. They said that after construction of Rupsha bridge, the mighty Rupsha is now dying by large amounts of siltation. The activists in the seminar laid emphasis to building up of a social mobilization for saving the existing rivers through an individual river ministry which would ensure sustainable socio-economic development in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Exchanging information at Dadhikot VDC

A day long disssemiation workshop was conducted in Dadhikot VDC on March 8th, 2012. The program was conducted with multiple motives of disseminating the research findings focusing mainly on the water issues of Dadhikot VDC. Also the findings from the analysis of secondary hydro-meteorological data were shared. PRA tools were used to better understand the water situation in the VDC and the feedbacks were collected from the local stakeholders. The program was simultaneously targeted to collect the aggregated perception on the climatic variability from the local people both male and female belonging to different age groups and both dependent on agricultural and non-agricultural livelihoods.  The workshop received an enthusiastic participation of over 85 local participants from different age groups and diverse occupation.

The program was divided into three sessions. Prior to the tea break was dedicated towards the dissemination and feedback collection. The second towards using PRA tools and collecting the climate change perceptions and the final for sharing the findings from the secondary climatic data analysis triangulating these with the local perception on the climatic variability and the adaptive strategies.

The workshop commenced with brief introductory session and succinct note on the Peri-urban water security research and its relevance in the context of Kathmandu and South Asia by Prof. Shukla reflecting about the water resources of Nepal and changing status in water management strategies, practices and water rights with contextual examples from Kathmandu, Chennai and Delhi in India and his own experiences.

This was followed by the presentation of the findings on the water issues of Dadhikot VDC by Mrs. Anushiya Shrestha. The study was appreciated by the local participants and the feedback regarding the declining command area of the terms of the historical Mahadev Khola and CHankhandi Irrigational Canal was provided which has been considered very useful to better understand the peri-urban water dynamics. The irrigation canals which were designed to irrigate 450 hectares and 250 hectares were not only for Dadhikot VDC but also neighboring VDC Balkot. The command area currently had declined due to various reasons such as encroachment and lack of proper maintenance. Though there no official records has been maintained but the Secretary of the Irrigational water Consumer committee estimated the command area has declined for both canals, currently approximately a total of 7000 ropanies could be irrigated in these two VDCs (Dadhikot and Balkot), 3500 Ropanies (178.12 hectares) in Dadhikot VDC could be irrigated in Dadhikot VDC. Similarly as the population data on the VDC level from latest census has not been disseminated, the study has been based on the census of 2001. The local people estimated that in the last decade the household number in Dadhikot VDC has increased from 1352 (CBS, 2001) to over 2200 households in 2011. The water insecurity concerns were vividly growing among the VDC people and these changes were closely observed by key functionaries involved in community water management schemes from the early years. Dadhikot Uttisghari DWS which started distributing private taps around 10 years back with 800 households has now been serving 1352 households but the discharge in the spring source has declined from 8.33l/sec in 2001 to 4.5l/sec in 2011.
The stakeholders directly with years of contributions for the water management in Dadhikot have been advocating the need of Watershed conservation approach to maintain water security in the VDC and regarding this the local people are proactively working to promote Nagarkot-Dadhikot Watershed Conservation. The program was conducted in the premises of Araniko High School and the principal of the school appreciated the research and practice of disseminating the findings and requested the peri-urban research team to provide the document on Dadhikot for the library of the school. This ended the first session.

After a short tea break, the program regained its pace for the second session. The participants were divided into three groups, with each team being guided by the representatives from the research team and the climate change perception questionnaires were delivered separately in each team. Simultaneously, the participants were facilitated to use PRA tools (time line to relate the retrospective climatic events, seasonal agricultural calendar, water demand and supply perception, gender segregated daily activities calendar and perceived climatic trend line) to interpret their perception regarding water management and climatic variability.

The team work was followed by lunch break. After the lunch the findings from each team were shared by the researchers guiding the team. While the team findings were homogenous in some aspects these were also providing additional information regarding the local perception on water management, perceived climate change and adaptive strategies. Following this Mrs. Anushiya Shrestha and Prof. Shukla shared the findings from the analysis of secondary data and compared the similarities and differences on the perceived changes in climate and that coming out through the analysis of hydro-meteorological records. The temperature records analysis showed increasing trend in both the daily maximum and minimum temperature while the rainfall data analysis did not show any distinct change in the rainfall trend. The perception regarding increasing temperature, both summer and winter were similar to the findings from secondary analysis whereas the declining rainfall as perceived did not exactly fit the results from data analysis.

Prof. Shukla very critically explained the variation regarding perception on rainfall. With urbanization induced increasing water demand and built-up areas, resulted decline in water bodies and ground water recharge zone, thereby reducing the water availability, both for domestic and agricultural purposes. Though the amount of rainfall has not undergone decline, the declining availability has been perceived to be ensued from declining rainfall. Prof. Shukla stressed as the changes in the climatic parameters cannot be managed, the need is to strengthen the adoptive strategies. In this aspect rain water harvesting and ground water recharge was acknowledged by the local participants and the research team as the compulsory need for the sustainable water management. Prof. Shukla appreciated the Watershed conservation program and shared the moral interest of nec- as an engineering institute to serve for the community benefits.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rural Living and Learning Experience (RLLE) by two interns from XIMB, Bhubaneswar

When we came to know that we had to work with SaciWATERs under the Rural Living and Learning Experience (RLLE) of Xavier's Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar, we felt very happy and at the prospect of working in peri-urban water development that interests us a lot. Not worrying much about our stay and food, we were excited about the kind of work that we were going to do in the field. 

Harvest of agricultural produce in Aliabad
During the one month of the internship, our work was divided into three phases. The first phase involved understanding of the ongoing project, literature review, and preparation of research proposal to study about the water availability and access, irrigation systems and the Shamirpet lake in Aliabad  village, which is 30 km away from Hyderabad. The second phase involved fieldwork where we got an opportunity to understand the concept of a peri-urban area and how a rural area transforms into peri-urban due to developmental activities without considering the damage caused by them to the environment. The third phase involved report writing and consolidating the internship. 

Discussion with the farmers
The main objectives of the research were to understand the current farming practices and irrigation systems in Aliabad, the effects of developmental activities around Aliabad, and to understand farmer’s perception about climate change. Availability and distribution of water in SC colony of the village was also studied along with gender issues affecting access to water sources.
Regarding the study about pattern of water consumption and access in the households we did gender disaggregated survey among the SC colony largely and also in other parts of the village. As this village is located in the peri-urban area lot of ground water pollution has occurred due to extension of roads and establishment of industries. Hence, commercialization of drinking water has started in the area. Currently there are five water purification plants in the village which sells water to the people. People who can afford to buy water for drinking are purchasing water from these water plants. None of the five purification plants are located in the SC colony which is located about a kilometre away from the main village. 

Talking to a water purification plant owner
Water supply in the village is taken care of by the village Gram Panchayat through underground water pipelines laid from over head tanks, separate installed bore wells in many streets so that people can collect water from the common stand points. Previously people used to depend on agriculture but nowadays there is a drastic decrease in the number of people who are practicing agriculture. The reasons are drastic decrease in the rain fall, increased employment opportunities due to nearby industries. As the input costs of agriculture are increased they are more inclined to work with industries as daily labour. Also, water from the Shamirpet Lake has greatly reduced due to real estate development and blockage of channels.The Shamirpet Lake used to have surplus water to supply for the agricultural fields of Aliabad and other villages also. But nowadays due to rampant developmental activities in the area around the lake and due to decrease in the rainfall the water level activities has gone down. It used to supply water for two crops but now days it could not supply water for even one crop properly.

LEARNINGS FROM RLLE: During our stay for one month with the organization and in the village stay we learned many things here we have tried to put on some of them. During the field stay we had stayed in the house of an ex- sarpanch of the village where we learned how to build rapport with villagers and how to manage the things during stay in the village. Socio economic factors play a role in the access of water such as the income level and the caste to which one belongs in the village. Hence we learned how to talk carefully with the people without hurting them and at the same time to collect the relevant information.We could observe that there is still discrimination of people based on their caste which needs to be changed.We learnt how to interact with the women in the self help groups and to know how they are trying to manage the things better in the village. Learned how to conduct focussed group discussions with farmer groups and observed how a rural area gets transformed into a peri- urban area. Previously we used to feel that it would be very difficult to conduct gender dis-aggregated surveys, but now we feel comfortable in this area and there are many things to learn how the man in the family influence the response of women in the house for an question.We learned how the water allocations between the villages will be there without conflicts and how do they resolve if any conflict arises and had an understanding about how urbanization affects the agriculture and water accessibility in the area. 

We thank XIMB and SaciWATERs for providing us with such an opportunity to work with them and simultaneously learn how to work with an organization and to understand the rural dynamics and how several factors plays role in access of water in the village.

Aditya Kurla and Subhash Kumar
PGDM - Rural Management
XIMB, Bhubaneswar