IAS Officer Restores 178 Water Bodies in 3 Months
Puducherry’s Karaikal district has been badly afflicted with water scarcity. Ground water level went down up to 300 feet, as rains are deficient, and water received from Cauvery river is inadequate. Farmers could cultivate barely a small fragment of their land. The administration had declared the district as ‘drought affected.’
Vikranth Raja, the then District Collector, took it up as a challenge. Feeling this was his time to lead in order to mitigate the sufferings of the farmers and the general public, he launched the ‘Nam Neer’ (Our Water) project to revive the 450 polluted, damaged, and dried up water bodies.
Learning from the flood management methods employed by the engineers of the 9th Century Chola Dynasty, who not only kept Cauvery waters from flooding the agricultural fields, but had created an efficient system of channels and bunds to harvest rain water and meet the water needs of the people the year round, he managed to have 178 water bodies desilted and revived in a short period of just three months!
How did he do it?
Raja was a hands-on man. He began with reviving the pond attached to Karaikal’s famous temple, Thirunallaru. In less than 3 weeks the pond was desilted. He motivated authorities of many other temples to clean the ponds attached to them using temple funds. It led to the revival of 30 ponds.
To enlist the support of government employees, he introduced the concept of ‘Employee Social Responsibility’ (ESR). The employees of PWD and the Forest departments managed to revive and beautify close to 35 ponds with public support. Under the MGNREGA scheme, every village was asked to revive one pond, which led to restoration of as many as 85 ponds.
Raja’s massive awareness drive motivated the general public and the corporates to volunteer for the programme. Through CSR, 20 ponds and about 81 km stretch of canals were desilted, facilitating easy flow of water to agricultural lands. People and organizations offered free services.
The subsequent monsoon replenished the revived ponds, prompting farmers to till their land, at some places, after a gap of a number of years. The ground water table was raised by up to 10 feet between 2018-19. The general public too had plentiful quantities of water flowing into their households.
Raja’s leadership and his efforts to motivate all stakeholders to contribute to the project, gave a new life to the water resources of the Karaikal district.