Meet Amla Ruia, the woman who brought water to hundreds of villages in Rajasthan. Founder of Aakar Charitable Trust, she was awarded the Lakshmipat National Leadership Award in Community Service and Social Upliftment category, in 2011.
Amla has transformed the face of villages in Rajasthan by using traditional water harvesting techniques and by building check dams. She made it all possible by engaging the local community.
Check dams, also known as khadin, are structures that involve comparatively small masonry constructions and extensive earthen bunds. These are most effective in hilly terrain where the whole hill range can be used as a catchment for the reservoir. These have all the advantages of large dams and none of the disadvantages, such as displacement and rehabilitation of people, huge underutilized dead storage of water, water logging and the risk of breach causing extensive damage to life and property. Adding to the list of benefits of check dams – these are also cost effective.
The water from the dam is sufficient to irrigate crops for the entire year. The farmers, who could barely grow one crop a year, are now able to grow three crops in a year in some cases. As the income has increased due to better harvests, farmers have started animal husbandry as well. Many households have 8 to 10 cattles and are generating additional income from milk, ghee and khoa. Increased income has also meant that there are now 1 to 2 motorbikes per family and 4-5 tractors per village.
Amla’s first project was in Mandawar village. The project has had great success and the farmers managed to earn as much as Rs.12 crores within a year with the help of two check dams constructed by her trust. After that, there has been no looking back for her.
The Aakar Charitable Trust (ACT) works by getting the community on board for each and every project. Almost 40 per cent of the cost of construction is borne by the farmers. The construction of one check dam costs around Rs.5 lakhs and can go up depending on the size of the dam.
ACT has constructed 200 check dams in 100 villages of Rajasthan, and impacted over 2 lakh people who now earn a combined income of Rs.300 crores per year.