Water is the basic necessity for all living organisms. Water capacity of ponds and lakes in India has been significantly reduced due to the settling of silt at the bottom of these water bodies. This causes a water availability problem for villages, in particular.
Another problem is that many people don’t have the resources to de-silt the lakes in their communities. So, there are government organizations and foundations which either have or rent heavy machinery to remove silt from lakes forming deeper bodies of water. With this greater availability of water, villagers find that they can have a better quality of life. This is because, with greater volumes of water, people are better enabled to use this resource for agriculture and home use.
An added benefit of de-silted water bodies is that the silt can be used in building roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. The silt can similarly act as a building supply for housing. Furthermore, the silt can be a fertilizer for crops – improving the quality of fruits and vegetables as well as increasing yields.
Health of villagers is improved in a variety of ways through de-silting projects. For example, because water in shallow lakes and ponds is more likely to be contaminated, the deepening of water bodies brings greater health to villagers and their animals.
The water bodies can be viewed from satellites. Before and after photos show vast improvements where areas can be seen to be green in year 2, when during the same season of year 1 they were completely brown. So, the influence of one improved lake or pond can be dramatic for a community.
To make improvements across the country, another issue that must be addressed is communication. Mobile networks work poorly in many villages. And, because many villagers don’t speak Hindi as their first language, and would rather use their state language, communication is often difficult.
Since there are groups that come into villages and travel from lake to lake to overlook progress and settle disparities, there are some issues which have to be addressed. There are often difficulties between construction workers deepening the water bodies, on the one hand and, on the other, villagers and Gram Panchayats. Gram Panchayats are the government bureaucrats who help the villagers.
These problems can often be solved by simple means such as listening to each other, clarifying situations, and trying to understand the other before insisting on certain solutions.
De-silting the lakes and ponds of small villages in India can make a major difference. Lives are being saved, communities are improving, and prospects are looking up because of the efforts being made by community members, government employees, construction workers, and the actions of foundations.
Written by Anousha Singi for the Center on Business and Poverty