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Special Content

Issue no 21, 21-27 August 2021

Catch The Rain: Monsoon 2021 How India is conserving water

I ndia's progress, as a nation, is only possible with water security and effective water management. The vision of India's development and self-reliance is dependent on our water sources and our water connectivity. However, the challenge of the water crisis is increasing equally with the country's development. Targeting this problem of water management, the Ministry of Jal Shakti took up a nation-wide campaign "Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain" focusing on saving and conserving rainwater with the theme "Catch the rain, where it falls, when it falls." This campaign was launched by the Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on March 22, 2021 transforming this Jal Abhiyan into Jan Andolan.

As a run up to this Monsoon 2021 campaign, the "Jal Shakti Abhiyan-Catch The Rain Awareness Generation Campaign" was launched on 21 December, 2020, in collaboration with NYKS (Nehru Yuvak Kendra Sangathan) which is being implemented in 623 districts of the country. So far, it has seen participation of over 2.27 crore people, including Government functionaries like District Magistrates, Municipal Commissioners; Public Representatives, Sarpanchs; youth and common people.

What is the 'Catch the rain' campaign?

Population growth, increasing demand for water in the agricultural and industrial sector and climate change are major factors influencing the availability of water. Per capita water availability in India has significantly reduced due to the expanding population. If supply of water is not increased and the demand and wastage of water is not reduced, there could be water shortages in the future. Therefore, water conservation has become the need of the hour. This campaign aims to cover both urban and rural areas of all the districts in the country during the pre-monsoon and monsoon periods of 2021, till November 30. The primary motive of this campaign is to nudge the states and all stakeholders to create Rain Water Harvesting Structures suitable to the climatic conditions and subsoil strata. With people's active participation, this will ensure storage of rainwater as the 4-5 months of monsoon are the only source of water for most parts of the country.

The campaign focuses on maintenance of the existing Rainwater Harvesting Structures (RWHS) and creation of new RWHS, preparation of the geo-tagged inventory of all water bodies in the country, followed by a detailed scientific plan for water conservation at the village level and setting up of Jal Shakti Kendras as integrated water knowledge centres in all districts and to give technical guidance on RWHS. To ensure maintenance of existing Water Harvesting Structures (WHS) checking dams, ponds, lakes etc; removal of encroachments & de-silting of water bodies to increase the storage capacity of the WHS; removal of obstructions in the channels which bring water to them; repairing the step-wells and traditional RWHS; using defunct bore-wells to recharge aquifers; restoration of wetlands and rejuvenation of rivers will be done among other things. Awareness building drives & workshops to sensitize & involve people, school children & others will also be undertaken to encourage their active participation. The campaign envisages interministerial and inter-sectoral convergence of all development programs related to water and its conservation like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) Scheme, Watershed Development Scheme, Per Drop More Crop etc taken up by the Central and State governments.

Need of the hour

Mentioning this campaign on 'Mann Ki Baat', the Prime Minister pointed out that the better India manages rainwater, the lesser the country's dependence on groundwater. Therefore, the success of campaigns like 'Catch the Rain' is very important. He called upon to step up water conservation efforts in the days leading upto Monsoon. To facilitate this, States have been requested to open "Rain Centers" in each district-in Collectorates/Municipalities or GP offices. During this period, these Rain Centres will have a dedicated mobile phone number and will be manned by an engineer or a person well-trained in RWHS. This centre will act as a technical guidance centre to all in the district as to how to catch the rain, as it falls, where it falls.

Efforts will be made so that all buildings in the district should have rooftop RWHS and that maximum quantity of rain water falling in any compound should be impounded within the compound itself. The basic aim should be that no or only limited water will flow out of the compound. This will help:

1.       Replenish the groundwater, improve the water table and soil moisture

2.       Meet the water demands till the next rains after 8 months

3.       Reduce flooding, particularly urbanflooding Let us know about some water harvesting methods that are practiced across the country.


1.      Ahar Pynes (Bihar)

An indigenous irrigation practice in south Bihar, Ahar is a rectangular embankment type water harvesting structure - embanked on three sides and fourth side being the natural gradient of land. Pyne are the irrigation channels. In south Bihar, the terrain has a natural slope and the soil morphology is like sandy soil which does not retain water for a longer time. As a result, the monsoon water is swiftly carried away or percolates down into the sand. Thus, floodwater harvesting is best suited for this region. The water for irrigation is drawn out by opening outlets made at different heights in the embankment. This water is mostly used for cultivation of paddy. In Nalanda district, water conservation project Jal Sanchay under which around a 1000-km Aharpynes irrigation system was dug up and renovated, was conferred the national award for excellence under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Program by the Ministry of Rural Development

2.      Bhungroo Groundwater Injection Well (Gujarat)

Bhungroo is a water management system that injects and stores excess rainfall water underground. This water is then used for irrigation during summers. Artificially recharging of aquifers by adding rainwater to underground water reservoirs enabled the communities to continue farming for more than half of the year. The non-saline rainwater when mixed with the underground saline water brings down the salinity of the groundwater, making it fit for agricultural use. The system also enables one to lift up and use the stored water during dry spells. The massive underground reservoir can hold as much as 40 million litres of rain water. It harvests water for about 10 days per year and can supply water for as long as seven months. These wells can hold up to two crore litres of rain water.

3.      Kandi Community Micro Irrigation (Hoshiarpur District, Punjab)

A type of irrigation project where solar PV energy is being used for pumping water from a canal to irrigate the area under command with micro irrigation, either by sprinkler or drip irrigation. The model is based on the "resource to root" concept. The system operation is web based, wireless irrigation management. The project has been executed in undulating/hilly terrain and as a result crop diversification, increase in yields and income levels of the farmers, and huge water savings because of drip and sprinkler irrigation have been possible. With a solar pumping system in use, dependence on electricity for irrigation has decreased. Reliable energy at zero costs have resulted in reduced input cost to the farmers.

4.      Mazhapolima Initiative (Thrissur, Kerala)

Mazhapolima, meaning bounty of rain, is an artificial groundwater recharge program. In the rainy season, the rooftop rainwater is led through pipes with a sand filter at the end, to open dug wells to replenish the aquifer. When multiple wells are recharged in that area, the groundwater table goes back up. However, when the water table is low, the water is retained in wells for a while, and then pushed into the ground. The system helps communities to have access to an abundance of drinking water free from nitrates, iron content and reduced salinity. This model is easily replicable and does not require much technical expertise.

5.      Kuls/Kuhls (Himalayan Region, Himachal Pradesh

Kuls are community managed traditional irrigation systems. These are surface channels that divert water from natural flowing streams (khuds). A typical community kuhl has a capacity to serve approximately 6 to 30 farmers and irrigate an area of 20Ha. The structure consist of a temporary headwall (constructed usually with river boulders) across a khud for storage and diversion of the flow through a canal to the fields. The Kul consists of moghas (kuccha outlets) to draw out water and irrigate nearby terraced fields. The water would flow from one field to another and surplus water, if any, would drain back to the khud forming a closed loop structure. Kuls are an example of how integration of the traditional methods and modern day technologies helps in aligning the technology to local requirements.

6.      Bamboo Drip Irrigation (Meghalaya)

An ingenious practice of North East India where water from stream and spring is tapped by using bamboo pipes to irrigate plantations. The water enters the bamboo pipe system and gets transported over several hundreds of metres across the irrigation land. This traditional practice is around 200 years old which harnesses the force of gravity for transportation of water. The zig-zag structure of holed bamboo shoots is arranged downhill, which diverts the natural flow of streams and springs across terraced croplands. Reduced channel sections and diversion units are used at the last stage of water application. The last channel section enables the water to be dropped near the roots of the plant. It is practiced in the areas of Jaintia, Khasi, and Garo hills of Meghalaya are largely made up of steep slopes and generally rocky terrain where the soil has low water retention capacity. Due to the rocky terrain, the use of groundwater channels is difficult and thus the bamboo drip irrigation system helps in easy transportation of water from the source to the fields.

7.      Johads (Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and the Thar Desert of Rajasthan)

Johads are simple mud and rubble barriers built across the contour of a slope to arrest rainwater. It is one of the oldest systems used to conserve and recharge ground water. Johads collect monsoon water, which slowly seeps into recharge groundwater. Sometimes, many Johads are interconnected with gulleys or deep channels with a single outlet in a river or stream nearby to prevent structural damage. These earthen check dams are meant to catch and conserve rainwater, leading to improved percolation and groundwater recharge and maintain soil moisture. Johads act as a source of water for drinking purposes by humans and cattle. They are called "khadins" in Jaisalmer. Availability of water for drinking and agricultural purposes has led to a decline in distress migration.

8.      Apatani (Arunachal Pradesh)

It is a wet rice cultivation cum fish farming system practiced by Apatani Tribes of Ziro in lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh. This area receives an average annual rainfall of 1700mm. This system harvests both rainwater and surface water which is simultaneously used for irrigation and pisciculture. In this method, water from small streams and springs is tapped by creating temporary mud walls that act as barriers and provide storage. They also act as flow regulators and help in diverting the flow towards the required area in the terraces and vicinity of agriculture the land in the valley. The system uses the rainwater and surface water flowing along the slope. The water tapped at the hilltop is mixed with the organic waste and passed across the village through small channels. The local drainage system is merged with the irrigation system which, in turn, improves the nutrient content of water required for rice cultivation.

9.      Phad (Maharashtra)

It is one of the best examples of a community-managed irrigation system. The Phad system, that came into existence some 400 years ago, is prevalent in north-western Maharashtra. This system is operated on three rivers in the Tapi basin - Panjhra, Mosam and Aram. Phad means a block of land used for irrigation purposes. The Phad receives water from the Bandhara (A check dam) and is diverted through the canal or Pat. The excess water is diverted back to the main river through Sandwa (the waste weir). Between each Phad, there are small openings called Bara. Gravity acts as the main force for distribution of water from one Phad to another. With the help of this system, small quantities of water flowing in the streams which would have otherwise gone as waste, are utilized for irrigation to the maximum possible extent. As the canal system in this case extends over a short length, the seepage and evaporation losses are less. Additionally, the initial and maintenance costs of the system are low.

10.  Jhalaras (Rajasthan, Gujarat)

Jhalaras are rectangularshaped step wells that have tiered steps on three or four sides. These step wells collect the subterranean seepage of an upstream reservoir or a lake. Jhalaras were built to ensure easy and regular supply of water for religious rites, royal ceremonies and community use. Jodhpur in Rajasthan alone has eight jhalaras with the oldest jhalara, the Mahamandir Jhalara, dating back to 1660 AD.


(Compiled by Annesha Banerjee & Anuja Bhardwajan)

Source: Ministry of Jal Shakti, NMCG, NITI Aayog