Sustainably Managing Water in India’s “Land of Death” Marwar Region

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Student Reporters Iliana Sepulveda and Arjun Bhargava contributed equally to this post.

Imagine living in Marwar, an area in the Thar Desert that translates to the “Land of Death” in the Sanskrit language. Imagine being part of a village which does not have a single source of safe drinking water within a radius of 1.6 kilometers. This area of high temperatures, low and erratic rainfall, saline groundwater and sparse vegetation also happens to be the most densely populated desert in the world. These are the conditions under which Jal Bhagirathi Foundation has successfully brought clean water and sanitation through sustainable water management techniques and community participation to the Marwar Region.

Tucked away in a corner of the Exhibit Hall at the World Water Forum, Jal Bhagirathi Foundation was humbly advocating solutions that it has implemented in the Thar Desert. Because of the high salinity of groundwater in this region, rainwater harvesting is essential to ensure that the little rainfall they receive over a year provides potable water. Its strategy to amalgamate modern technology with traditional water harvesting structures managed by local communities is unique and was praised by the United Nations Development Programme as an effective adaptation strategy to climate change. Another achievement is the participation rate of women, considering the patriarchal nature of society in that region. Women comprise anywhere between 20 percent and 100 percent of the village water users association (locally called a Jal Sabha). Within the project area, the Foundation has also contributed to sanitation projects, and has built water structures in 80 schools benefiting 24,960 children.

We interviewed Jal Bhagirathi Foundation’s Project Director, Ms. Kanupriya Harish. We asked her to introduce us to the organization, her role as a Project Director, the funding mechanisms, the role of the caste-system in the area, and other topics that you can learn about in the interview above.

You may access their solutions at http://www.solutionsforwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Milestones-2010.pdf

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