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This is the happy result of a project to widen and deepen a small natural pond.

This pond, many years ago, used to be full of water all year through. Then it got silted up. When we visited it in May 2015, it was only a small shallow muddy patch of water (see bottom right).

We decided to desilt the pond and shore it up with stones to create a sort of holding wall. This would increase the capacity of the pond. The women of the village worked on this project. All the labour came from the village.

As a result of the deepening, the pond has now become usable all year round. Our current estimate is that the pond can now hold around 15000 litres of water. All through the post-monsoon period, Oct-Feb, this pond has been used by cattle. In fact you can see a cow in the picture. Although it is far away from the village homes, the women are coming now to use it as a daily source of water. There are two women in this photo, with pots on their heads. This pond will be one of the sources of water to help them tide over the summer which is on its way.

This pond has also served for 6 months as a recharging pit for improving groundwater levels in the area.

Janardhan, our local project manager is in the white T-shirt.

Malathi and I are now thinking about how to make this pond bigger. This year we will probably widen it, deepen it, and make it more "pucca". In general, we also need to examine new ways of creating more solutions for cattle. If we can find a way to do that, then we can start a microfinance business of goat-herding for some of the village men and women.
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कस्मै नमांसि देवाः कुर्वन्ति?
दयाप्रधानाय।
To whom do the Gods offer salutations?
To the Compassionate.

The quote is from Sankaracharya's Prashnottara Ratna Malika.

I am not a particularly religious person. But I quote this because I have come to believe the act of feeling empathy for others is the true mark of a human being.

I want to thank those of you who offered to help with the village project.

We have to do it. If not us, then who will do it? The government works in this area, but it is not anywhere near enough.

In 2 months, we have done water-work that has not been done in years. But there is so much more to do. The wells have some water  in the monsoon. Everyone dreads the summer.
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The next water structure: So now we have 2 ponds for the village.
My sister has joined in the funding of the water projects and school children nutrition initiative. Here in this photo you can see the first bandhara (dam) and then the second one, at a lower level, thus creating two ponds for the village.
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NEXT PROJECT: The pond! It is such a pleasure to see the water from the bandhara collecting here. It has been deepened to hold the water. 25 men worked for 7 days to improve their own village. We paid for 6 days and they gave 1 day shram-daan for the cause. Even a rich person will not easily give up a day's income! I don't know how much this will improve the water situation this summer. We will see.
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My first water project: a small check dam in the village. First baby step in rainwater harvesting. We also cleaned up one of the wells, which was a real mess. More such dams are required to make a real difference.
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In June I went again to the village. Although the monsoons had arrived, the villagers were still worried. The rain had come and then disappeared for 4 weeks. Farming had come to a standstill as they worried and waited. This dependence on rainfed agriculture is one of the most problematic situations in our country.

My friend Malathi Rai​ and I went with my neighbour Rashmin Sanghvi​ to see how to address the water shortage and to prevent another blistering summer with dry wells. Rashminbhai is an expert in water harvesting, having worked tirelessly for decades in recharging water levels in Dharampur.

We identified some places where there is a natural slope and where rainwater harvesting projects can be done through building small multiple small "bandara" structures (check dams).

We also identified a silted pond which has to be dug up to help store water and recharge the groundwater levels. The access to the water for women has to be improved with steps cut into the rocky slope.

I offered to sponsor the first round of work in the first village. The idea is to extend to the whole district if it is successful. It may take us 10 years.
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Water! There is no water. How to make the land hold water all through the year? This is the real question.

In May 2015 I went to a village 3 hours from Mumbai, and watched the women struggle uphill, bringing pot after pot after pot.

The daily trek for water consumes the life of women. It eats up the hours. It eats up the already low calories. It is pointless and useless labour, helping produce nothing. Young or old, if you are female, the water pot does not spare you. You carry what you can, until you fall by the wayside.

The woman in this photo was at least 70 years old. In the peak heat, she was walking barefoot for at least 45 minutes to bring two pots.

I said to myself, "This has to change. I will change it if I can. It is one village yes, but it is a start".
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