AALA, GELA, RAHILA – the water budgeting tool that Everyone should use…

The rains are crawling into India…. late, but hopefully here for a good spell. In my house in the heart of Pune city, we are getting water only every alternate day. I shudder to imagine the situation in outskirts, suburbs villages…. 

In this context, here is a tool WOTR uses in its rural trainings, but which is relevant every-single-where….

It’s quite an amazing feeling when something you learnt reluctantly in school comes back to you and you realise the exact significance of what you were mugging up for the exams! This happened to me in Darewadi just now. And it happened like this:

I attended a Training workshop on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction for WOTR’s Wasundhara Sevaks (People from the community directly engaged in implementing WOTR’s projects in the villages). One of the many topics introduced was Water Budgeting and Crop Selection- kharif, rabi and summer crop harvests and their relationship with water consumption. My 4th and 5th standard Geography with the list of kharif and rabi crops came running back to me.

The Water Budgeting session began. The facilitator made 2 columns on the board: Credit  and Debit and proceeded to map the utilisation of water as Income and Expenditure.

Wasundhara sevaks from 15 villages watched, going along with the idea. Water was flowing instead of money and Rain instead of daily wages or market sales. Expenditure of water on home, farm and cattle was something they were all familiar with. Someone also cleverly thought of evaporation from open water bodies and transpiration from leaves as part of expenses. (They knew they were in a training session after all!)

Water sources excluded external sources like tankers or canals or moving sources of water like rivers. Only water directly received by the village as rain and that got stored as groundwater was included.

Aala, Gela, Rahila – What comes in, what goes away and what remains.

Next, the total water received by a village, any sample village was calculated (in hectare metre) by multiplying its area in hectares to the amount of rainfall in metres.

1 hectare metre = 1 crore litre. So the amount of water available was calculated in crore litre, then calculated in the number of water tankers which would make up that many crore litre and then calculated in the cost of all these tankers put together.

For example: For the sample village 1017 hectares big that gets 700 mm of water in a year… (Take out your mobile phones)

This comes to 712 Crore litre of water!

@ 10,000 litres per tanker, this comes to 71200 tankers!!

And @ Rs. 3000 per tanker, this comes to Rupees 21,36,00,000!!!

Let us be very clear.

This… Rupees Twenty one crore, thirty six lakh only,

… is the money value of the total water received by a single village every year.

(The sad situation is that just like cities, most of the villages here have had to have water brought to them in tankers in the summers. And this has gotten worse over the last few years. So calculating something in number of tankers really drove the point home. )

The God Almighty (i. e, the Earth, the Clouds, the Trees….) showered so many crore litre i.e so many crore, lakh rupees on them every year. Free, free, free!

The Wasundhara sevaks from 15 villages looked on with open mouthed disbelief. This was a moment of huge learning for all of us.

But of course, this is not the actual amount of water that the village gets. After further calculations of water lost through various sources, a much smaller, but still substantial figure (about 463 crore litres for the sample village) is obtained. This is the actual water resource that the village has for utilisation per year.

Using data collected by Wasundhara Sevaks from the village using GIS and GPS systems, the water consumption of each individual crop is calculated. This forms the basis for crop planning. If more water gets spent on the kharif crop, then the crop pattern for the rabi crop needed to be changed accordingly so that water can be conserved.

Accordingly, a 4-year plan can be formulated, at the end of which, the Water Budgeting tool will ensure that the village never lacks water, or is at least prepared for an imminent drought situation.

The point of this Water Budgeting tool is simple. Let us for once, treat water as a limited resource, as a commodity and not as a free, unlimited grant from nature.

The Ultimate Aim: a) Optimum utilisation of available water resources without strain on the eco system and b) the village should NEVER need tankers again.

When one starts giving value to ‘freely’ available natural resources like water, the real cost of production starts becoming clear. So, a farmer can calculate the real profitability of a crop. Also, it makes us all conscious that our wanton consumption of water is actually stolen from someone else’s rightful share of this indispensible resource.

Coming back to school, I can now make the connections.

Most traditional farming systems had an inbuilt basic harmony with the water cycle and common community sense. There were crops which were grown in particular seasons and particular soil and climate types. Kharif and rabi were not merely time of harvests in the year. They were the cycle of seasons, in the agricultural year, in the life of a farmer, in the nutrition of a nation. They brought with them a particular cuisine, culture and economy, which regulated everything from festivals and food to soil nutrients and the water table. Our unreasonable demands on soil and water are tiring the earth out, draining her strength.

This Budgeting tool was so simple and yet had never been used for anything except money before. We all came away with a lot from this workshop. I came away with a lot of questions.

So here is a new question paper:

Q1. Shouldn’t each of us know our rightful water usage- how much water we have, how much we need and how much we are consuming?

Q2. Shouldn’t old cities and new townships stop stealing water from the surrounding villages and consume based on water budgets of rain and ground water?

Q3. Shouldn’t there be a National Budget for every resource and not just for money?

If your answer is Yes, Yes, Yes… please start asking more questions!

- Radhika

(Please watch our video on the daily struggle for water in rural India here.)


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