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A check dam of their own

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FRUITS OF LABOUR: The Shivayogi Jalayashaya at Hosatti village of Athani taluk before installation of gates.
FRUITS OF LABOUR: The Shivayogi Jalayashaya at Hosatti village of Athani taluk before installation of gates.

Vijaykumar Patil

Hosatti (Belgaum District): They shouted for years but there was nobody to listen to their woes. And, in sharp contrast to complete loss of hope that the Government would come to their rescue and provide succour to dry throats and parched agricultural lands, the intervention by a local non-governmental organisation, Vimochana Sangha, helped in finding a solution.

With proper planning and motivation to have a participatory approach, and the prospective beneficiaries ready to join hands for a common cause, it hardly took 18 months to erect a Bandhara (check dam) named "Shivayogi Jalashaya".

The Shivayogi Jalashaya across river Aghaharini near Hosatti village of Athani taluk was dedicated to the nation on Saturday.

There was a festive mood with a large number of villagers witnessing the inauguration of their own project.

With the completion of the check dam, three villages will get drinking water, 35 borewells and 20 open wells will get recharged and about 500 acres of agricultural land will get water for irrigation.

About 45 villages of Athani, a border taluk, were facing droughts since 1972. While the Krishna flowing through the taluk swelled due to heavy rains last year, many of these villages in the taluk continued to remain dry. Successive governments had been neglecting issues such as drinking water, irrigation and employment opportunities resulting in deep frustration among the villagers. So much so that people of 22 villages had threatened to leave Karnataka and migrate to neighbouring Maharashtra. Hosatti village was the worst hit.

About two years ago, the villagers sat together to explore a solution to their water woes and decided to construct a check dam across the Aghaharini flowing closely. It was Subash Chitgupkar who convinced the villagers that continued dependency on the Government would yield no results and motivated them to adopt a participatory approach giving examples from some of the success stories in other parts of the country.

With Vimochana Sangha headed by senior advocate B.L Patil also joining hands and bringing in eight self-help groups working with it, an 11-member committee headed by honorary president Marulshankar Devaru, president Ravsab Devakate and Subash Chitgupkar as Convenor was formed.

Soon, a blue print was prepared. Engineer M.K. Sajjan worked out the design and estimates at the lowest possible cost of Rs. 18 lakh for the dam with 20 vents.

A contribution of Rs. 10 lakh came from Vimochana's CCF project (Christian Children's Fund's outreach community service programme), while local people and philanthropic institutions/individuals contributed Rs. 2.5 lakh.

Another Rs. 2 lakh came from Chikkodi Sangh and the Belgaum Zilla Panchayat provided Rs. 3.5 lakh towards the project. It was the then zilla panchayat Chief Executive Officer Rajendra Kataria, who was greatly impressed with the design and surprisingly low cost of the proposed dam, ensured expeditious clearance of the project.

With a little escalation in the cost due to increase in prices of steel and cement, additional need of Rs. 2 lakh was fulfilled by Laxman Saudi, MLA, under the MLA Area Development Fund. Farmers, including women and youth, offered "shramdaan" (free labour) and the dam was built in 18 months.

All the 20 gates were installed on Friday.

The Shivayogi Jalashaya now stands as a symbol of participatory approach to development. Also, it will create a sense of ownership, help in proper monitoring and judicious sharing of precious water.

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