RGF plans 'green corps' to tackle water scarcity

NEW DELHI MAY 29. The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) has set in motion an ambitious plan to create a "green corps" of volunteers in rural areas, devoted mainly to rainwater harvesting and environmental regeneration.

The first batch of 45 volunteers have already been deployed in Rajasthan with the help of Magsaysay award winner, Rajendra Singh and his organisation, Tarun Bharat Singh.

The plan is to recruit at least 50 volunteers every year in different parts of the country, so that, at the end of five years, there would be a cadre of 250 dedicated water activists.

The project marks a new stage in the evolution of RGF as its activities had so far been confined to providing grants to NGOs. This is the first time it will be directly involved in the implementation of a project. RGF's secretary-general, Manmohan Malhoutra, said that through the new programme, the Foundation hoped to give impetus to the water harvesting movement, transfer good practices and help in the evolution of water harvesting policies that are more people-friendly.

The project has already had a good start, with the formation of 50 `jal sabhas' and `jal samitis' in different villages of Rajasthan. In all, 16 check dams are under construction and eight ponds are being deepened, with more projects in the pipeline. While the RGF bore two-thirds of the expenditure, the community contributed the rest.

An important feature of the project is its emphasis on capacity building of the volunteers through regular training sessions on issues such as natural resource management, equity, building community solidarity, conflict resolution at the village level and involvement of women, besides the technical aspects of water harvesting. "We hope that after working as volunteers with the RGF for three years, the members of the green corps will be able to strike out on their own as agents of change and leaders in their own right,'' Mr. Malhotra said.

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