Film of Water Harvesting at a Pilgrim Centre

By: initiatives
Mon, 04/01/2010 - 22:58

Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty at Ajmer is a world famous religious pilgrim spot, dear to both Hindus and Muslims. A low rainfall area, Ajmer gets annual precipitation of around 50 cm only and has limited ground water resources. The major source of water supply to the township was from a surface water reservoir know as “ Ana Sagar” and a few ponds. Over a period, these water bodies have become polluted and unpotable. The pilgrim centre, therefore, had to depend on water supply from a Drinking Water Supply Project, 90 Kms away from the town.

More than 35 lac pilgrims visit the annual Urs and 17 crore litre of water is required annually for the shrine complex. The PHED is able to supply less than 2 per cent of the water requirement, leaving a huge gap, which the Dargah Committee has been meeting through alternate arrangements. There is a ground water reservoir popularly known as Jhalra, which is the main source of drinking water to the complex. It is fed by the drainage from the foothill of Taragarh but due to poor maintenance for a number of years, it dried up in July, 2007.

To resolve the water supply problem of the pilgrim centre, the Committee held detailed discussions to revive the dried up traditional water supply structure. To meet the gap in demand and supply of drinking water, the Committee took-up a reclamation project through community participation and by employing labourers having knowledge of restoration of wells, ponds and old Jhalaras. The work continued for a whole month and around 6000 sq.ft area was scientifically excavated up to 22 feet depth. Garbage and debris were removed and the passes which were choked for years were opened up. This resulted in restoring water level to a desired extent to resolve the drinking water problem of the township.

By December 31 2008, water level in the Jhalra reached 40 feet, making available 63 lac litres of water per day. An average of 4.75 lac litres of triple/double filtered water is supplied to the Dargah premises, meeting nearly 99 percent of the demand. In addition, three shallow tube wells have also been constructed, supplying pure water to pilgrims. Tests indicate that the water quality is very good.

As documenting the success of peoples’ lead innovations to find solutions to problems will enable its organizational mission, Institute for Development Initiatives has prepared a documentary film on this initiative, with support from India Water Partnership. The mission of IWP is to establish water partnerships at community level to tackle the problems of drinking and irrigation water in different parts of India. Its major activities include collection of evidence of local wisdom on IWRM through the network of partners and NGOs, with particular focus on backward areas, training of groups and research and documentation of low cost water saving technology. The documentary is based on extensive research on the low cost water saving technology used in Ajmer and its objective is to disseminate the massage of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM).

The steps in production included detailed discussions with Dargah committee, residents and shopkeepers, study of the water supply problems of the township and traditional water harvesting systems in the region, including the reasons for their deterioration, documentation of the efforts by the Dargah committee and the community in restoration. The documentary interweaves the culture, dance and music of the region to the social and religious life in the Dargah complex, including the perceptions of both Indian and foreign pilgrims.In order to ensure sustainability of water supply to the pilgrimage there is a need to prepare a consolidated action plan which will include detailed groundwater investigation of the Taragarh hills, quality appraisal of the water supplied through tube wells, construction and improvement of drains/storm water drains preservation of water bodies in and around Dargah, improvement in infrastructural facilities in creating durable water assets and quality oriented services for the pilgrimage, quantification of total water exploited from these tube wells constructed on the periphery of this Jhalra (Water Reservoir), creation of awareness among the masses to adopt similar model of water storage in the drought hit areas and press/media coverage of such noble efforts.Religious and pilgrim places have huge tracts of land and other natural resources, many of which are degraded. In some religious places pilgrims do free labour to develop land, plant trees, clean up the premises etc. This religious fervour can be converted into meaningful social action that will produce sustainable solutions to natural resource management problems. IDI hopes that this documentary on the Ajmer experiment will motivate other religious places to initiate such community action.If you require DVDs of the film on water harvesting, please write to