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The Mahabari Deopani area in Dooars region of West Bengal has perennial springs which are the only source of water for drinking and domestic consumption. In the last 3 years, these springs had started drying up and turned seasonal. Consequently, the homemakers had to trek upstream for about 500–700 m through sloped terrain to fetch water. Recharging of groundwater by checking run-off was found to be the only solution to rejuvenate the spring. Hence, a project to develop the upstream area for containment and slow release of run-off was undertaken by Gram Panchayat in Matiali Batabari of Matiali Development Block in Jalpaiguri District.
“The structure benefitted us. The water is available in large quantity which was earlier collected from a distant location. Now, all families are getting water”. —Mr. Umesh Kurmi of Deopani Basti
Given the high gradient, raising bunds was found to be ineffective without sufficient protective measures. Moreover, motivating the locals was another challenge in the beginning. The primary
objective was to recharge the spring through groundwater conservation to make it perennial for domestic and agricultural use in the hilly area. The raising of a small bund, gully plugging and digging of a small pit across the slope with vetiver plantation also reduced the soil erosion. By arresting the run-off water across the slope, the flow of spring water increased. The surplus water was diverted to a reservoir from which water tanks were filled for subsequent distribution of the water for domestic and other use by using solar pumping system. The solar pumping-based drinking water distribution system was implemented under the 14th Finance Commission. The springshed development of Deopani Jhora of Deopani Mahabari was started in May 2017 and completed in June 2018 at a cost of Rs. 15.16 lakhs. In addition, it converged with Deopani spring through 14th Finance Commission at a cost of Rs. 12.55 lakhs.
Apart from helping in groundwater recharge, the project reduced soil erosion in the high slope areas. Also, 7,500 litres of water is being collected in the nearby collection structure. The water is distributed to the 205 households that use it for drinking and other domestic needs. The flow of spring water was increased (from about 7 litres per minute to an average of 19 litres per minute), and it became perennial. The water available downstream also increased the agricultural production. Apart from this, the vetiver plantation is expected to generate additional income.