Pani Panchayat is a voluntary activity which was worked out via collective management (harvesting and distribution) of surface water and groundwater (wells and percolation tanks) by a group of farmers of Naigaonvillage of the drought-prone Purandartaluka of Maharashtra in 1974.
It was initiated by VilasraoSalunkhe, after a severe drought hit Maharashtra during 1972-73 and Purandar district was badly affected too, which led to shortage of drinking water, household and irrigation needs as well as for cattles. Rainfall in this region fluctuated between 250 mm and 500 mm. This in turn affected the agricultural productivity and employment of the region. Then, he thought of the need to ensure sufficient availability of water including its equal distribution through proper management and conservation of water involving a sustainable approach. He started watershed development works initially on a barren 40 acres of land, taken on lease from a temple trust by him, for 50 years.
Gram Gaurav Pratishthan (GGP)
Gram Gaurav Pratishthan (GGP) was a charitable trust established on 27th May 1974, at Naigaon Village for Sustainable Rural Development through Equitable Distribution of Water, Organic Farming, Heath & Education.
Its objectives were –
- Assured Water for Population who are depending on land for livelihood.
- Natural resource protection and conservation, especially water.
- Protecting water rights for the weaker section of the society.
- Safeguarding agricultural income or providing alternate livelihood support to the people.
- Practice of organic farming.
- To develop a watershed model based on water equity.
The principles and protocols followed by GGP
- Only group/collective schemes were taken.
- Landless people were also given water rights.
- Land rights and water rights were made separate.
- Beneficiaries should share 20% of the cost of the scheme proposed by any group, the rest 50% by government and 30% by Pani Panchayat as interest free loan.
- Sharing of water on the basis of the number of persons in a family and not on the proportion of land holding.
- Water will be given on the basis of 0.5 acre per person in the family.
- Ban on water intensive crops like sugarcane and banana.
- Individual wells in the command areas were not allowed.
- Sale of land was restricted; wherever land was sold, irrigation right was not passed on to the buyer.
Work done by Pani Panchayat
- 144 hect. of land irrigated under Pani Panchayat principles benefiting 194 families.
- 22 villages welcomed the principles and approached the Pani Panchayat authorities for preparation of in all 44 lift irrigation schemes covering an irrigable area of 920 hect. benefiting some 1347 families.
- Water resources were fully utilised and it led to equity water distribution and created a sense of team work in development activities.
- Currently operates 52 irrigation projects in 25 villages in Maharashtra.
- Development activities are still continuing in Naigaon village via various ways.
- Availability of sufficient drinking water ensuring equity distribution.
- Sufficient availability of water for irrigation.
- Increased employment opportunities.
- 920 hectares of land brought under sustainable agriculture, 1347 families benefited.
- Increased agricultural yields/products and increase in other benefits such as fodder, manure, biomass etc.
- Reverse migration and practice of organic farming.
Pani Panchayat principles covered equity, demand management, rights of landless, community participation and sustainability of the resource. The Naigaon experiment provides a model scheme in drought-prone areas where the above conceptual ideas have been put into practice. It addressed drought and uplifted the socio-economic condition of the rural poor and restored ecological balance.