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Table: Water Requirements and Production
per Hectare by Crop
|Quantity of Water
|Total Number of
Table 9.7 Value and Employment Generated by 300 Hectare Centrimeter of Water l
Hectar cm of Water
|Value of Production
from Area lrrigated
|Man-days of Work
Generated from Area
Note: 1 hectare cm is the amount of water required to cover hectare to a depth of 1 centimetre Source Gram Gourav Pratisthan
The Mukti Sangarsh movement was launched in 1982-83 when striking textile workers from Bombay returned to their villages, to find that the problems of drought, of continual crop failure, and water shortage were the most overriding concern of the people of Khanapor taluk. While the government proposed its 'Takari Scheme' to lift water from the Krishna to irrigate sugar plantations in thirty villages; the people had alternative plans. Over 500 peasants of Balawadi village met and suggested a proposal to grow fodder for four months of the year on 2,000 acres of their land and provide it free to the entire taluk if the government would provide water. On 25 September 1985, 1,000 peasants marched to the taluk office to press their demands. The main thrust of the proposal was to prove that it is possible to distribute water equitably for protective irrigation of food crops if irrigation water is not diverted to the cultivation of water-intensive perennial cash crops like sugarcane. On 27 October, the Mukti Sangarsh movement organised a conference on drought eradication. At the conference V.M. Dandekar, the Chairman of the Maharashtra State Drought Relief and Eradication Committee, argued that a scientific reformulation of the Takari Scheme could provide water for 250,000 hectares instead of the proposed 90,000 hectares for sugarsane cultivation. The only obstacle were the sugar barons who wanted to monopolise water for their own profits. Dandekar proclaimed that, 'Water is the wealth of the nation. It is now necessary to fight those who don't and won't understand that it is a matter of social justice to provide it to as many families and villages as possible.' In response, a politician supporting the sugar lobby, stated in the Maharashtra legislature, 'We will not give one drop of water from sugarcane; instead a canal of blood will flow. Cane and sugar factories are the glory of Maharashtra..
On 5 March 1989, the people of Khanapur taluk gathered at Balawadi to inaugurate a people's dam called the 'Baliraja Smriti Dharan' (Baliraja Memorial Dam) built with people's resources to meet people's needs. Popular participation has excluded corruption, waste and delay and has shown that people are capable of managing their own affairs. The next step is to ensure equitable distribution of water through social and collective control over water use. For example, it has been agreed upon that sugarcane would not be cultivated. The aim is to plant mixed tree species on 30 per cent of the land, with protective irrigation for staple grain, to ensure an economically and ecologically sound alternative to the policy for creating a water crisis through the expansion of sugarcane cultivation.
Initiatives like those of the Mukti Sangarsh and Pani Panchayat indicate that sustainability in water use can only emerge from the democratic control over water resources. Popular control simultaneously avoids ecological breakdown as well as social conflict.
Indigenous systems of water management had evolved highly complex mechanisms to ensure the equitable distribution of water in spite of inequality in landownership. Such organisations as 'Kudimarramat' were based on principles of local and collective self-management. The solution to man-made water scarcity as well as the conflicts that such scarcity generates lies in the recognition of the view that water is a common resource and can be sustainably and equitably managed only on the basis of collective control and decision-making. It is from these local initiatives and our ancient history of water management that concepts of water rights will emerge which are simultaneously ecological and just.
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