Amrit Sarovars rejuvenate Haryana villages, resolve wastewater problem

Amrit Sarovars rejuvenate Haryana villages, resolve wastewater problem

Amrit Sarovars rejuvenate Haryana villages, resolve wastewater problem

Settler tanks collect household greywater via drains and sewage pipes and feed it to the ponds after treatment and filtration 

Gurugram, Haryana: Lulled by gentle breeze, Krishna Devi spends most part of the day sitting on a charpoy in her house located just opposite the village pond in Hariahera in Gurugram district. Up until a year ago, she would watch the wastewater almost come up to her house in monsoon season from a cesspool, which stood in place of the pond constructed last year under Mission Amrit Sarovar.

It is an idyllic setting now, where ducks waddle in hot summer noon and weary travellers find solace under trees. The 1.39-acre site was developed at a cost of Rs 85.02 lakh, with benches set up and 150 trees planted as part of beautification. A boundary wall was also constructed and the water body was deepened to 4.5 m.  

“Outsiders came and worked day and night to create the pond. The children are so excited that they use the swing, installed as part of pond beautification, almost throughout the day,” beams Devi. The pond is a favourite spot of not only people from Hariahera, which has a population of over 2,000, but also the residents of adjoining Alipur.

The pond plays a major role in managing wastewater from households, besides promoting groundwater recharge and good ambience through beautification work. However, its impact on groundwater recharge is not yet proved as Mission Amrit Sarovar began only a year ago.

Notably, Haryana has a total 19,488 ponds, including 18,589 in rural areas and 899 in urban locations. Of them, 1,856 are polluted, with a tendency to overflow in monsoons. 

Treating greywater

GuruJal, a non-profit organisation, is working closely with the government of Haryana to rejuvenate ponds. Its engineer Ashish Tiwari explains how wastewater is allowed to flow into the pond after being duly treated. “A 10 to 12 ft deep settler tank constructed near the pond collects the greywater from households via drains and sewage pipes. After treatment and filtration processes, the water is released into the pond,” says Tiwari, who has worked on the Hariahera village pond. 

Ashish Tiwari of Gurujal explains how waste water after being treated is allowed to flow into the pond (Photo - Deepanwita Gita Niyogi, 101Reporters)

GuruJal has revived 17 ponds in Sohna, Pataudi, Farrukhnagar and Gurugram blocks of Gurugram district. Around 90% of these projects were completed under Mission Amrit Sarovar. In Sohna block, besides Hariahera, a water body in Daula village was revived. 

Many ponds in Gurugram district have shrunk in size due to rampant encroachment. Solid waste dumping is also a major issue behind the disappearance of ponds. In some cases, water bodies were sold off illegally and hence cannot be reclaimed. GuruJal works with the government and also involves the community to reverse such conditions.

According to its annual report for 2021-22, 644 water bodies were present under the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority in 1956. By 2018, it came down to 123. Overall, Haryana is one of the most water-stressed states in India due to groundwater exploitation and depletion.

Algae formation is a cause of concern and fish may be introduced by Gurujal to tackle it (Photo - Deepanwita Gita Niyogi, 101Reporters)

GuruJal has mapped 400 water bodies in Haryana, designed the systems for wastewater treatment plants for 17 of them and reviewed about 80 Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) for the government. “When we work with the government, we do surveys, prepare DPRs and give estimates, but we do not do the execution. When we do it alone, we work fully from start to end,” details Tiwari.

As Mission Amrit Sarovar relies on funds under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), crowd funding and district plan fund, all these resources were used to pool in money to revive the ponds. “In some places, pond revival is done in convergence with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act [MGNREGA],” says Gurugram District Development and Panchayat Officer Virendra Singh Sandhu. 

He reminds that communities are the ultimate stakeholders, and hence gram panchayats should take care of the ponds once rejuvenated. True to this, the villagers have been cleaning the ponds using nets in both Daula and Hariahera every 15 days.

Rejuvenated ponds have become recreational sites for village residents of Gurugram (Photo - Deepanwita Gita Niyogi, 101Reporters)

Recharging groundwater

Launched on April 24 last year, Mission Amrit Sarovar targets to develop and rejuvenate 50,000 ponds across India by August 15 this year. In each district across the country, 75 ponds or amrit sarovars will be constructed or rejuvenated as part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, which marks 75 years of Independence.

In Haryana, 7,691 sites have been identified, work has commenced on 3,327 and completed on 1,518. Of the 175 sites identified in Gurugram district, work has commenced on 73 and finished on 46. Of these, many ponds come within the panchayat/urban local body limits.

“Under Mission Amrit Sarovar, things are moving fast. Budget estimates for many ponds have been prepared. The rejuvenation depends on funds but work has started in many places. The Haryana Pond and Waste Water Management Authority also takes care of water bodies. Labour work is carried out under the MGNREGA,” says Dharmender Singh, a Junior Engineer at Sohna Block Office.  

Before the restoration of Daula pond (it is 8 km from Hariahera), which is 2.5 m deep and spread over 0.8 acres, children used to use it as a playground. The revenue records, however, showed the presence of a pond there. When the Rs 41-lakh restoration process was launched, a treatment plant was also built to deal with wastewater of the village. 

“When work started, a lot of mud was excavated to construct a 200 KLD (kilolitre per day) settler plant. It takes 17 hours for the water to get treated,” explains Tiwari. Daula village shopkeeper Milap Singh says the site would dry up in summers earlier, but not anymore.

“We aim to recharge groundwater through this initiative. As part of site selection for pond revival, land availability was considered and resolution passed by gram sabha,” Sohna Block Development Officer Hitesh Kumar tells 101Reporters.

Speaking of Amrit Sarovar, he says the minimum requirement is an acre under the mission. In Topra Kalan village in Yamunanagar, a pond measuring nine acres was developed after connecting existing water bodies.  

Issues at stake

Though measures to revive ponds are progressing in many places, the readied water bodies are facing challenges. Daula resident Vijay Singh Raghav, the husband of sarpanch Bimlesh Devi, mentions the accumulation of plastic waste as a huge problem.

 Krishna Devi of Hariahera loves spending time near the water body (Photo - Deepanwita Gita Niyogi, 101Reporters)
"We can remove some of them using nets. But it will be time-consuming if plastic piles up. In summer, the use of plastic disposables goes up. I daily ask the sweeper to take away discarded bottles. Everyone in villages these days uses disposables and soft drink bottles,” he rues. The apprehension is that during the monsoon, water from the pond may overflow with plastics choking drains.

Raghav remembers a time when houses were built around village ponds. “As part of the revival, machines were pressed into action, plantations happened under the MGNREGA and the people of Daula participated. At one time, it seemed impossible that the pond’s original glory could ever be restored.” 

Another downside is the formation of algae in ponds as there is no reuse and overflow of water. To tackle this, GuruJal is thinking about introducing fish in them.

Though revived ponds are an asset, especially during summers, there were a few hiccups on the way at Hariahera. Resident Naresh Biduri says the pond work started in 2019-2020 and could be completed only last year due to fund crunch. Work resumed after the CSR fund was pumped in. 

“Today maintenance work is being done by the gram panchayat, though the pond has not been formally handed over to us and is still with GuruJal.  The revived pond area was once the accumulation point of wastewater with no boundary wall. There was a constant fear of children falling into it. Now, it is an asset,” he says.

Meanwhile, Tiwari clarifies that GuruJal has handed over the pond to the district administration, and that the Block Development Office will hand it over to the gram panchayat.

Haryana Pond and Waste Water Management Authority Executive Vice-Chairperson Prabhaker Kumar Verma says the priority is to revive polluted and overflowing ponds that are not in use. "We want to restore such ponds and also those of historical importance.  There are 36 critically water stressed blocks in Haryana. Solid waste and cow dung mainly pollute the ponds. Nukkad nataks (street theatre) are performed to highlight the importance of water and how people can save them." 

Edited by Rekha Pulinnoli

Cover photo - A view of pond in Hariahera village, Sohna Block, Gurugram (Photo - Deepanwita Gita Niyogi, 101Reporters)


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