Vedavathi river, which emerges in the Chikamagalur Taluk of Karnataka, was a strong river, nurturing thousands of people. A few years ago, pockets of the river started disappearing, drawing the attention of Nagraj Gangolli. A groundwater expert and presently, the Director (technical), Art of Living River Rejuvenation Projects, Nagraj studied the region and prepared a blueprint for the project - the Vedavathi River Rejuvenation Project.
Initiated under the National Guaranteed Employment Scheme, the vision was to rejuvenate the 5,447 sq kms area of the Vedavathi River, which flows between Chikmagalur and Hubli. This would benefit 1,097 villages, reaching out to 1.5 million people.
A solution-oriented approach
Trouble began when water table levels dropped and water was not available even at 450 feet. Deforestation and soil erosion over the last 20 years saw failed crops year after year in Chikmagalur, Hassan, Chitradurga and Hubli and problems increased when Vedavathi River went dry nine years ago.
Nagaraj brought together a team of experts from renowned hydro-geologists, civil engineers supported by techno-functional GIS team and scientists of IISC, ISRO and IT groups.
Data collected by the Art of Living’s research team showed that in the last decade the cause of a river drying up was not failed monsoons, but mismanagement and unchecked overuse of water, year after year. Rejuvenation work began with the implementation of a watershed management program, which included groundwater recharge, afforestation and sustainable farming methods.
All this was implemented in the catchment zone (the first 40 kms of the river), aimed at addressing the depleting groundwater resources, drying up of streams and water bodies and shortage of drinking water. Commencing in February 2014, the project had two phases planned:
(Feb 2014 to September 2015)
Planned construction of 810 recharge structures (270 boulder checks, 486 recharge wells, 16 injection wells and 38 water ponds) was undertaken
(May 2015- Work in progress)
20, 928 structures to be constructed (10,362 boulder checks, 8,505 recharge wells, 741 injection wells, 1,320 water ponds)
3,000 trees to be planted
Results start dripping
The results started coming in soon after, as the levels of ground water increased. Recently, with 20 cms of rain, three inches of water was found at 110 ft, a feat accomplished at a minimum of 450 feet.
As the work progressed, the impact is even more visible with groundwater available at 30 feet.
Our work so far:
6,786 recharge structures built while 1,021 are in progress and 12,526 are in the pipeline
2,000 people employed generating 1,84,000 man-days of work
Survey of satellite maps with markings of the original trail of the river/stream
Imparted skill building and capacity training to local communities
21,800 recharge structures of boulder checks, recharge wells, water ponds
5,447 sq km of area which will cover a comprehensive watershed management program
2,90,795 man-days of work through the MGNREGA program
1.5 million people to benefit from this project
The Vedavathi River rejuvenation project is the first of the many river rejuvenation projects run by The Art of Living, under the guidance of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
The rejuvenation work for 30 rivers across 4 states is currently on, benefitting 3,000 villages.
Story credit: Art of Living Bureau of Communication