Local pond helps residents of Shivpuri village in MP keep floods at bay

Local pond helps residents of Shivpuri village in MP keep floods at bay

Local pond helps residents of Shivpuri village in MP keep floods at bay

Villagers repair boundary walls of the village pond to prevent flooding during extreme precipitation caused by climate change and learn a crucial lesson in watershed conservation to alleviate drought conditions and control floods.

Bhopal: Unseasonal and excessive rainfall wreaked havoc in Shivpuri district, Madhya Pradesh, leading to heavy flooding and waterlogging in many villages. However, in the same vicinity, Jakhnod village of Pohri block remained relatively safe and unscathed from the deluge of floodwaters. Locals said this was made possible because of community efforts to protect a local pond that served as a reservoir for rainwater, which initially helped the village mitigate drought during extreme summers.

Impact of climate change

Shivpuri, situated in the Chambal region, remains mostly rain-scarce. The recent excessive rains are a sign of climate change rapidly affecting the country's weather and rainfall patterns. Consequently, water levels in rivers like Sindh, Kuno, Parvati and Mahuar, passing through the district, have risen.

This year, Shivpuri received around 55% of its total rainfall in a span of 38 hours. According to India Meteorological Department (IMD), the district received 454.57 mm of rain in less than two days, while the area's average rainfall is only 816 mm. Between June 1 to August 21, the district received 1065.4 mm rainfall, when the average precipitation for this period is only 553.5mm. This was 92% above normal levels, as per the IMD.

Villagers said that it was the first time in their lives they had seen a flood in their hometown.

"Never ever have my parents or grandparents recalled seeing a flood in Shivpuri," said Rahul Yadav, a local farmer. "No one was prepared for such a situation as rainfall here is mostly low. It is usually a water distress area. I had never imagined this happening."

Tiding through drought

A pond, locally called Bada Talab, spread in 100 bighas (a measure of land area varying locally from 1/3 to 1 acre), is an essential feature of Jakhnod's topography as it provides relief to around 1500 people during harsh summers and water scarcity all year round. Approximately 2,000 bighas of land are irrigated with the water from this pond every year.

"This pond is vital for the locals as it stores plenty of water during rains, which is then used year-round by us for farming, drinking and other needs. It is like the lifeline of the village. This time it has also been proven that the pond has protected us from devastating floods," said Yadav to 101Reporters.

After repairing the cemented boundary of the pond, or Bada Talab, that had been damaged, locals in Jahknod create a failsafe boundary with sacks of sand (Picture credit - Ajay Yadav)

Lokendra Thakkar, Officer In Charge, Government of Madhya Pradesh State Wetland Authority, Environmental Planning & Coordination Organisation (EPCO), said that wetlands are significant habitats for amphibians, fishes, plants, and aquatic birds. They also act as a carbon sink as they store carbon in the plants and soil, helping limit Green House Gases (GHGs) and regulate microclimate – small scale climatic conditions of a localised area such as inside a forest, a garden or, in this case, around a wetland.

He said that impervious surfaces prevent water from infiltrating the soil and contribute to higher erosion rates, flash flows and increased sediment loads in nearby streams, resulting in floods. Wetlands are nature-based solutions that act as sponges, soaking up extra water and allowing it to infiltrate into the ground and slowly releasing the water into nearby streams, thereby preventing floods during storm events.

Essentially, Bada Talab is the local wetland that has helped create a unique microclimate and ecosystem in Jakhnod and, in turn, also protected it from being inundated.

Swift action saves lives

Ajay Yadav, a local social worker, saw that the pond's boundary was about to give way as the incessant rainfall had caused it to overflow.

"A few of us noticed that water had breached the boundaries and had entered into four nearby houses. The flow of water was quite strong as there was continuous rainfall for a few days, and there were cracks in the walls of the pond. The water level had crossed the highest level markings," said Yadav, recalling the incident to 101Reporters. "We immediately contacted the local administration, but they just came for supervision, and as we did not have much time, we decided to take matters into our own hands," he added.

Mobilising the locals into taking immediate action, Yadav convinced them to put in efforts to repair the walls of the pond to prevent flooding.

"After one or two meetings, we decided to repair the pond walls with gunny sacks, plastic sacks and mud. Though it was temporary, we couldn't risk letting the pond break as it would have flooded 3-4 villages in the proximity. It is a large pond with tonnes of water," said Dinesh Yadav, a farmer and resident of Jakhnod.

The villagers worked for five days straight to repair the walls and contain the damage. They succeeded in averting the floods while other villages were sinking knee-deep in water and their residents were being air-lifted to safety.

Sustained efforts by community members to maintain their local pond has saved Shivpuri from devastating floods (Picture credit - Ajay Yadav)

"Every year during rains, lots of soil gets eroded from fields and is deposited into the ponds. They need to be desilted so that they stay deep and can store more rainwater. But many villages do not pay much attention to the regular cleaning of the ponds, because of which they become shallow. Had the locals been more aware and cleaned the ponds, there would have been no floods in Shivpuri," said Ajay Yadav, who has been working to deepen the local ponds for many years with NGO Vikas Samvad Samiti.

The municipal corporation does some basic work on the ponds in all the villages, like cleaning algae but are lax with other crucial activities like desilting the pond. Ajay and the NGO have motivated people to maintain the pond regularly and ensure encroachments don't occur. This effort has been missing in neighbouring villages. 

Efforts towards wetland conservation

Speaking of conservation efforts to protect these wetlands from vanishing, Thakkar said that the government of Madhya Pradesh is working on a few projects with the support of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

"All the Wetland conservation projects are essentially leading to climate change adaptation and mitigation. We have many ongoing and pipeline projects on wetland conservation. There are two projects through which we are looking into enhancing adaptive capacity to climate change through conservation of traditional water supply sources in Indore and Burhanpur cities of MP."

He added that there are many projects for lake and wetland conservation currently underway in various districts of the state that the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) of the MoEFCC (60%) and the state government of MP (40%) are jointly funding. The Municipality and Public Health Engineering Department are currently undertaking one such project to conserve and manage lakes in Shivpuri.

This article is a part of a 101Reporters' series on The Promise Of Commons. In this series, we will explore how judicious management of shared public resources can help the ecosystem as well as the communities inhabiting it.


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