Skip to main content

India’s invisible water wizard's unique borewell recharge technique


By Moin Qazi*
India has long undervalued one of its most precious resources—water. Today the country’s chronic mismanagement of water has led to drought in nearly 2,00,000 villages. According to the World Bank data, Indian farmers use almost 70 percent of the total groundwater that is drawn in the country each year. Shockingly, India uses more groundwater annually than China and the United States combined. Due to this massive overuse, groundwater levels are being depleted all over the country by an average of 0.3 metres per year.
Traditional water harvesting techniques have been employed for nearly 1,500 years to conserve water for cultivation. These systems continue to remain viable and cost-effective alternatives for replenishing depleted groundwater aquifers. This traditional knowledge and wisdom, however, have been abandoned in the race to embrace new technologies which have upset the ecological system. With government support, these systems could be revived, upgraded and productively combined with modern techniques.
Sikandar Meeranayak, the founder of a non-profit called Sankalpa Rural Development Society (SRDS) based in Hubli, Karnataka, is one of those working tirelessly and silently to assist farmers to understand the importance of sustainable water management. Meeanayak’s silent crusade caught international eyes and he was awarded the Energy Globe World Award- 2018 in the Category- Water for his innovative development of the twin ring method of rain water harvesting through bore well recharge at the international award ceremony at Yazd in Iran, on 28th January this year . this technology was recognized by the jury as a a solution to the sinking groundwater levels and water- and food undersupply due to the non-sustainable cultivation.
Wikipedia states: “The herculean status of the Award often equates it to Nobel Prize.” The Energy Globe World Award shows solutions from all over the world to our environmental problems and is the world’s most prestigious environmental award. Meeranayak’s work was chosen from over 2300 entries from 182 countries. A great achievement for a young man with a passion for water.Energy Globe, a private Austrian initiative, celebrated its 20th anniversary this year . The success of this initiative is visible in its database with over 20 000 sustainable projects, all of which offer different solutions to our environmental problems.
This is the story of a young man from a hamlet (in the Gadag area in Hubli in the southern Indian state of Karnataka) who as a child, along with other inhabitants of the village ,struggled to procure water during drought time – often walking 3-4 km to carry water from a farm supply which was shared by livestock and cattle. A source of water that was often not clean.
Meearnayak’s father was a subsistence farmer and all those around him tried valiantly to feed their families from holdings as small as one and a half acres. Meeranayak pondered, how could he make a difference and, despite his father’s wish for him to go into the security of government service, he took up study and explored his way into the world of social entrepreneurship. At the age of 26 he set up a non-profit- the Sankalpa Rural Development Society. Sankalpa means a single–minded resolve to focus on a specific goal- and Meeranayak’s goal was water.
Meeranayak has implemented over 1500 rainwater harvesting structures for farmers as well as industrial sites, schools, and urban housing complexes. Meeranayak’s method is to channel the monsoon rains back through borewells into the underground aquifers where it can be conserved for future use. Even borewells that had dried up are being replenished through the method after only one decent rainfall. “I have always been passionate about solving water troubles,” says Meeranayak, who grew up in a drought-prone region. The aim of SRDS is to lower the cost of existing irrigation technology using innovations tailored to the needs and conditions of local farmers.
While Meeranayak has been a grassroots revolutionary, the work was strengthened by the entry of an Australian development activist, Shazar Robinson into the SRDS fold, four years back she joined SRDS as a volunteer and advisor in 2016. She travels to India regularly to assist the work for water working in India for 2-3 months at a time. Her work continues even when in Australia as she helps with fundraising and online media needs for SRDS. Her direct experience working with local people in villages and farms over the past ten years has been very rewarding for her. Her primary focus is on water – and helping people to understand the essential need to respect and value all of the water on Earth.
The SRDS method of borewell recharge uses a catchment pond that can collect and store up to three lakh litres of rainwater. The catchment pond is a 10x10x10 foot pit that acts as a primary filter around the borewell and has a casing pipe with tiny holes to allow water to percolate in and out without any loss to the borewell. “When we began operations,” says Meeranayak, “nearly 70 percent of Hubli’s borewells had run dry and many farmers were selling their lands to pay off debts”. Today, SRDS has recharged hundreds of borewells across Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh. Besides implementing their water replenishment systems, the SRDS team also educates farmers on post-recharge maintenance and care.
Shashank is a farmer in the Sira district of Karnataka whose life has been transformed through Meeranayak’s efforts. Ten years ago, he dug a borewell; for three years it provided water but with depleting vigour each year. When Shashank’s borewell finally dried up, he was forced to reduce his cultivation to one crop per year. He became totally dependent on rainfall, his income fell, and he decided to abandon his land to search for work elsewhere. It was then that he heard about the SRDS recharge method.
At a cost of approximately Rs 15,000—his share of the total Rs 30,000—a feeder pond was built and the rainwater harvesting system was installed in Shashank’s dry borewell. When the rains came, the pond filled with water. Soon afterwards, he refitted the pump to his bore well—and was overjoyed to find water gushing out. This year, he will be able to grow two crops again and fully irrigate his land.
This story is not unusual, it has been repeated many times over in more than 90 percent of the implemented borewell recharge projects. The direct borewell recharge technique has seen a profound increase in ground-water levels and yielded many other benefits. With the confluence of pure rainwater, the quality of the existing groundwater improves, marked by a decrease in solids and toxins, and the hard water is made usable.
Erosion of precious topsoil is also arrested as the runoff water from the farms and open fields are channelled to the recharge pits. The increased availability of water enables farmers to gain multiple crop cycles and diversify the crops grown leading to increased harvests. The growth of crop yields and the resultant growth in rural prosperity also adds to the employment possibilities for the landless and the underprivileged.
There is also good news for the environment. In regions where multiple recharge projects have been set up, there had already been a marked reduction in the demand for new borewells. After Meeranayak’s first success, the idea spread like wildfire in the nearby water-starved villages. The amount of land under cultivation has grown manifold and farm incomes are rising. For work, men no longer need to leave home, and women need walk no farther than their village for water.
The method is simple, works well and is cost-effective. In brief, the process is as follows:
  1. A pond which is approximately 8 ft deep is constructed near the site of the borewell so that it is in a position to gather the runoff water from the monsoon rains.
  2. A pit is dug around the borewell casing.
  3. The bottom of the pit is lined with filtration material to a depth of 2 ft
  4. Then, slits are cut into the borewell casing using a cutting machine and the casing is wrapped with nylon mesh so that solids cannot enter.
  5. At this stage, cement rings are placed around the borewell casing and the spaces between are filled with cement to seal them. This ‘false well’ is then filled with stones.
  6. Another ‘false well’ is made of cement rings which are placed next to the first and the gaps between are filled with cement. A cover is placed on it to stop rubbish from falling in.
  7. A three-inch feeder pipe is fitted, coming from the pond to a hole in the first cement ring of the empty well. This brings in the water from the pond.
  8. During the rainy season, the water flows from the pond into the first empty well where it percolates down through the filtration material and subsequently up into the second well around the borewell casing. It then enters through the slits and filters down into the underlying aquifer where it is stored for the following dry season.
This borewell recharge technique can be easily replicated and implemented anywhere in rural or urban areas at an affordable rate. Moreover, it can be customised according to local needs and geographic conditions. The work is done on a shared cost basis with the farmers—they chip in with materials and labour to contain the cost—and the final cost is only a fraction of what is required for a new borewell.
The system fails only if the monsoon rains fail. Even if the feeder pond fills three times during the rainy season, the aquifer will be recharged. Borewell recharge is a permanent solution that allows farmers to irrigate between six and nine acres of land and grow three or four different crops per year. There are also supplementary benefits. When a borewell is recharged, the moisture in the surrounding land becomes denser, allowing farmers to grow additional vegetables and fodder so that the nutritional needs of the family and livestock can be provided for, apart from the main crop.
A lot of good ideas got their start when one individual looked at a familiar landscape with fresh eyes. People like Meeranayak have shown there are easy, sustainable methods for mitigating India’s water scarcity crisis. There are undoubtedly many viable solutions to be found if we are willing to think out of the box.
---
*Development expert

Comments

TRENDING

Sorry state of Indian academics: why was I thrown out of Delhi varsity interview room?

By Dr. Abhay Kumar*  The interview for the post of political science (Guest) was scheduled on Saturday afternoon, September 10, 2022. Given my previous experience, I was not willing to appear for it. But friends persuaded me to go and fight for our rights. I reached the college well before the time. When my turn came and I entered the room. The first question was asked about my experience. I said that I had taught for four semesters at NCWEB. I mentioned that I had taught ”Comparative politics”, “International Relations”, “Comparative Political Thoughts” and “Indian Government and Politics”. I said that as a teacher I had taught all the articles listed in the syllabus of the same Delhi University and the expert could ask anything about any reading or ideas. Friends, the first question asked by a female member, perhaps she is the principal of the college if I am not wrong, to give the full form of NCWEB! The second question asked by a male expert, perhaps he is the political science dep

Musician and follower of Dr Ambedkar? A top voilinist has this rare combination!

Some time back, a human rights defender, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, who frequently writes for Counterview, forwarded to me a video interview with Guru Prabhakar Dhakade, calling him one of India's well known violinists.  Dhakade is based in Nagpur and has devoted his life for the Hindustani classical music. A number of his disciples have now been part of Hindi cinema world in Mumbai, says Rawat. He has performed live in various parts of the country as well as abroad. What however attracted me was Dhakade's assertions in video about Dr BR Ambedkar, India's undisputed Dalit icon. Recorded several years back at his residence and music school in Nagpur, Dhakade not only speaks candidly about issues he faced, but that he is a believer in Dr Ambedkar's philosophy. It is in this context that Dhakade narrates his problems, even as stating that he is determined to achieve his goal. A violinist and a follower of Ambedkar? This was new to me. Rarely do musicians are found to take a

Tokens, symbols or incipient feminists? : First generation women sociologists in India

By IMPRI Team  The online event on the theme ‘Tokens, Symbols or Incipient Feminists? : The first Generation of Women Sociologists in India’ was held as an initiative of Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi under the #WebPolicyTalk series of The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. Inaugurating the session, Zubiya Moin welcomed the speaker and participants to the program, followed by an introduction to the eminent panelists. Commencing the program, Prof Vibhuti Patel made her opening remarks welcoming Prof Kamla Ganesh, Feminist Sociologists and then greeted Prof Ratna Naidu and the editors of book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’, Dr Gita Chadha and Dr. Joseph M.T. along with Prof Arvinder Ansari and also welcomed all participants. She set up the stage by making us familiar with women sociologists and their works. Dr Gita Chadha, Editor of the book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’ After th

Omission of duty by BSF and police: Hindu forcefully kidnapped, taken to Bangladesh

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), & National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI) writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission: *** I am writing this to focus on the life and situation of the poor and marginalized villagers living alongside the Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal. Through the several complaints we made throughout the years to your good office, it is now evident that the people of this border are living in an acute crisis, not only from a financial perspective but also in terrible distress. The people of the border are devoid of their basic rights and are subjected to immense torture, harassment and restrictions mostly enacted by the Border Security Force personnel, who are supposed to be posted at the international borders with intentions to protect the Indian citizenry. However, on the contrary, incidents of victimizing Indian citizens are being witnessed at large by the BSF. 130 Bhot

Emerging dimensions of India’s foreign policy in the context of global politics

By IMPRI Team  The three-day course took place recently, providing participants with an understanding of the development of Indian foreign policy, the complexity of geopolitics, and its flexibility to adjust to and even shape global outcomes. Many distinguished academics, senior scholars, former Indian diplomats, and journalists who are skilled observers and commentators of India’s foreign policy will serve as instructors for this course. Day 1 The three-day immersive online certificate training on “Emerging Dimensions of India’s Foreign Policy and Global Politics”, an initiative by the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), began on July 14th, 2022 at 5:00 PM (IST) on Zoom platform. Dr Souravie Ghimiray served as the emcee throughout the 3 days of the event and welcomed the distinguished speakers of Day 1. The esteemed panel on Day 1 consisted of, Dr Soumita Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Intern

Demographic parameters of India@75: resource allocation, political representation

By IMPRI Team  As per UN Population Prospects 2022, India is going to be the most populous country in the world. In this regard, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi with #IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) , organized a panel discussion, #WebPolicyTalk, as part of the series The State of Population Development- #PopulationAnd Development on India@75: Most Populous Country? The moderator of the event was Mr Devender Singh, Global Studies Programme, University of Freiburg and a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. The panellists for the event were Prof P.M Kulkarni, Demographer, Retired Professor of Population Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) , New Delhi; Dr U.V Somayajulu, Co-Founder, CEO and Executive Director, Sigma Research and Consulting ; Dr Sonia George, General Secretary, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Kerala; Prof K.S James, Director and Senior Professor, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai. Th

Tamil Nadu govt claiming to reform Hindu religion, temples. People deserve better

By NS Venkataraman  For the last several decades, there have been hate campaign against Hinduism in Tamil Nadu in a subtle or not so subtle manner. Initially, it was a hate campaign against brahmins and the brahmins were abused, insulted and physically attacked. Fearing such conditions, many brahmin families left Tamil Nadu to settle down in other states in India or have gone abroad. Now, the brahmin population in Tamil Nadu is at microscopic level, for which these hate campaigners against brahmins were responsible. Later on, emboldened by the scenario of scared brahmin families not resisting and running away, the hate campaigners started focusing on Hindus. For some years, when M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalitha were the chief ministers of the state, the hate Hindu campaigners were not much heard, as both these chief ministers were staunch believers in Hindu philosophy and have been offering prayers in temples in full public view. However, in the last eighteen months in

Bhagawat Gita shows the way for the attitude to life and desirable goal of life

By NS Venkataraman*  When a mother delivers a human body, this body has no identity. Then, parents, relatives, friends consult each other and discuss the alternate appropriate names and arrive at a suitable name for this human body and this body is known and identified by this name. This human body, which steadily grow just like animals, plants and others and after experiencing the pleasures and pains of worldly life alternately for several years, perish one day, for the body to be burnt or buried. This body, bearing a name as it’s identity, comes in to the world and goes away from the world and the name that is the identity for the body also goes away along with the body. This is the scenario for several thousands of years that have gone by. The question: One question that does not seem to be still “convincingly explained” in a way that will appeal to the brain in the human body, is as to whether this human body only consists of flesh, bone and blood with well

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Tattoos and intimidating gestures can't always win cricket matches for India

By Sudhansu R Das  Team India waited with baited breath for the outcome of the Pakistan vs Afghanistan match. Speculation was on about India’s return to the game if Pakistan loses to Afghanistan until Pakistan’s tailender, Naseem hit two massive sixes to win the match for Pakistan. Unfortunately, Afghanistan lost the match after being in a strong position till the last over of the game; two full touch balls in the final over turned the match into Pakistan side. The Afghanistan team would never forget this blunder and shock for a long time. India’s team management should introspect and take tough decision keeping in view of the tough match situation in the world cup matches. India lost two crucial matches in the Asia Cup. It could not defend a big total of 176 against Pakistan due to mediocre bowling attack, sloppy fielding and unimaginative captainship. It failed against Sri Lanka in similar fashion; it could not defend another respectable T 20 total of 171 runs. It was a pat