Bilaspur: The availability of water due to a conservation project has transformed life in Bitkuli, a small village in Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh, and turned it into a "model village".
The village inhabited by 56 families with a total population of around 250 people, belonging to marginal sections (SC and ST), was going through a sustainable livelihood crisis.
For four generations, Ashok Bhaskar`s family grew paddy here, but only in the last four years have they managed to benefit from farming.
In 2008, Bhaskar and other villagers had a water conservation project initiated by Shikhar Yuva Manch (SYM), an NGO, which changed their fate.
Bhaskar is now all smiles as he points at a farm pond in his field.
"Earlier farmers of Bitkuli were struggling to yield crop in only one season due to scarcity of water. They could grow just one crop in 130 acre out of the total 255 acre of the cultivable land during monsoon," Bhaskar said, adding that now there is water even in April.
For the rest of the year, people migrated to other places in search of work.
"Now, I am making more than I used to as there is water throughout the year," Bhaskar told PTI.
"Earlier, the only source of irrigation in the village was Dharamsagar pond (small dam), which was in a worthless state. No canal system was constructed to supply water to the fields from the pond and even the depth of it was low," Gulabi Sarathi, another villager, who has now become head of water user committee in the village, said.
"Somehow, we managed to bring water from the dam to the fields but that could barely irrigate 60 acres of land while no additional facilities were there for bathing, washing clothes and other routine activities except the dam," he said.
In 2008, SYM, in association with a few other organisations, decided to help the villagers.
"The mission was to help villagers become green and self-sufficient. We identified suitable spots for construction of small ponds to conserve water," Dhananjay Anupam, the coordinator of Shikhar Yuva Manch, said.