BEED: Hundreds of people from 15 villages in Maharashtra's Beed district are braving blazing Sun to wage a war on perennial water crisis in Marathwada, one of the most arid regions of the state.
They are part of the 45-day "Shramdaan Abhiyan" (Voluntary labour campaign), launched on April 8 by an NGO under former AAP leader Mayank Gandhi, who has adopted these villages for water conservation and preservation.
The villagers are digging trenches, farm ponds, watershed structures, check dams to preserve the rain water.
Dozens of excavators and earth-movers, funded by various corporates, are deepening and widening the tributaries of the "Paapnashi" river which passes through six of the selected villages.
The 15 villages have collective population of 30,590.
Gandhi, previously associated with the India Against Corruption movement, said he chose the particular area in Parli taluka of the district because it has the lowest irrigation.
"Only 1.72 per cent of land here is under irrigation as against 16.57 per cent in Maharashtra and 40 per cent in the country. I want to empower these villages with the 360-degree development including water security, agriculture, education, sanitation and community building," he told reporters at Mamdapur.
Gandhi said the "Global Parli project" launched by him in 2016 has been acting as a catalyst.
Local social worker Dr Harishchandra Wange and his team of doctors are raising awareness and motivating the villagers about the importance of storing water.
"The Paani Foundation is providing technical and practical training to the villagers while corporates like Borosil, UPL, Alkem are assisting us through their CSR initiatives," Gandhi said.
Ten out of these 15 villages have been selected to participate in the Satyamev Jayatee Water Cup competition.
The activist said he had fixed a target for all the villagers to complete the work before the arrival of the monsoon.
"Every village has its own maps with watershed structures, contour trenches, compartment bounds, check dams, farm ponds etc," he said.
Huda Kaudgaon village Sarpanch G R Rathod said the villagers are motivated and are hopeful that their struggle for water would end soon.
Marathwada region has been experiencing a spate of droughts since 2012.
Most of the villagers face the daunting challenge of walking long distances up to two to four kms, just to fetch few litres of water.
In 2016, the Railways had dispatched a special 'water train' with 10 wagons for parched Latur in Marathwada region.
The region has also seen suicides by a number of distressed farmers.