Jal Sahelis: Empowering Communities and Resolving Water Scarcity in Bundelkhand

By auther pic. CSRBOX

February 22, 2024

Jal Sahelis: Empowering Communities and Resolving Water Scarcity in Bundelkhand

Jal Sahelis

It is summer season onset, and mercury is already touching 42°C in Bundelkhand. Water has evaporated from most rivers and ponds. Tube wells and handpumps have gone dry in one of the most underdeveloped areas of crucial India. Even city families get a brief water supply once every three days.


The most precious item in Bundelkhand's hilly and plateau terrain is water, spread over six Madhya Pradesh and seven Uttar Pradesh districts.

But simply 15 kilometers away, in Chandrapur village, part of the identical tehsil, a hundred and seventy families are relatively more comfortable. A test dam, constructed five years ago by a women's organization, Jal Sahelis (Women Friends of Water), is full of water accumulated at some point during the monsoon. The water is used drastically for irrigation and domestic purposes within the village.

Reviving Water Bodies

Started in 2005 from Madhogarh in Jalaun in Uttar Pradesh, the network of Jal Sahelis across two hundred villages in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh is reviving water harvesting systems and conventional water bodies through network participation.

Trekking long distances to fetch ingesting water was ordinary. Life of other girls inside the neighborhood turned into comparable. Farming, family chores, and fetching water have been taking a toll on our health and circle of relatives' lifestyles. It was 2011-12 when we were instructed on the importance of rainwater harvesting, and we realized how essential it was for the women of Bundelkhand.

Building Check Dams

The ladies joined fingers and prepared themselves as a "Paani Panchayat" under the mentorship of Singh, the founder of Jalaun-based non-governmental business enterprise Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan and Jal Jan Jodo Abhiyan. This nationwide marketing campaign works to ensure water protection through community participation.


The Jal Sahelis, who are illiterate or semiliterate, then worried the complete village in a 25-day extensive digging workout. They revived a dying two-acre pond by converting it into a test dam earlier than the monsoon season. Check dams are small, every so often transient, built throughout the path of water drift on shallow rivers or rain streams for water harvesting. They keep extra water floating during monsoons. The pressure created by their catchment region facilitates pressure of the impounded water into the floor, replenishing nearby groundwater reserves and wells.

Socio-Economic Transformation

The initiative brought a huge socio-financial change within the village, in which agriculture was restricted to a single crop (wheat) for the year. In Bundelkhand, canal irrigation is unavailable in maximum elements, seriously hampers agricultural manufacturing, leading to poverty, indebtedness, and farmers' suicide.


In any other village of Talbehat tehsil, Udguwan, the girls enjoyed building a test dam and ponds eight years ago. 

As many villages in Bundelkhand are dealing with an excessive water crisis, farmers are migrating to cities for water and jobs, and women are strolling for 2-three km to get water. Meanwhile, Chandrapur and Udguwan are set to develop pulses after harvesting the wheat crop, way to the efforts of the Jal Sahelis.

700 Women Water Warriors

The cost of 1 check dam is ready Rs 2 00,000 – the village's elaborates offer Rs 300,000 and labor. Water availability and focus have recommended villagers grow vegetables from their backyards and unused small patches. Even teenage ladies in the district's Nandanpur village preserve kitchen gardens after school hours to guide their parents.


Over the past five years, the Jal Sahelis have emerged as empowered girls who speak like pro-activists. Clad in simple sarees and with their heads protected, the lady's water warriors communicate in Bundelkhandi Hindi, a local dialect, and articulate the importance of water harvesting and girls's rights.


These thoughts are set in stone on the check dams stating, "Women have the primary proper to water assets." According to a World Resources Institute weblog, the United Nations Development Programme's studies on 44 water projects across Asia and Africa show that once ladies and men shape water policies and establishments, communities use water services more and sustain them longer.

Ample Rains But No Water Harvesting

Tikamgarh obtained 51 percent excess rainfall in the final year; simultaneously, the districts of Jhansi and Lalitpur had little, much less than the average, 8 and 11 percent less, respectively.


Was it challenging to convince people to take subjects into their palms instead of watching for the authorities to do their bit?


While the reach of the Jal Sahelis is restricted, they wish that the authorities scaled up their rainwater harvesting efforts throughout India.

Impact Created

The Jal Saheli movement has created tremendous social, economic, and environmental impact in the Bundelkhand region:

  • Water Security: By building over one hundred check dams and reviving traditional water bodies, the Jal Sahelis have ensured 12 months of spherical water availability for ingesting, irrigation, livestock, and domestic needs in over two hundred drought-susceptible villages.
  • Women Empowerment: Over 700 rural girls have emerged as water leaders, selection-makers, and changemakers. Their rights over water assets are inscribed at the check dams.
  • Improved Agriculture: Assured irrigation has enabled farmers to grow 2-three crops yearly compared to only one crop previously. This has boosted incomes and reduced migration.
  • Food Security: Increased food production within villages has decreased dependence on outside materials. Many families develop kitchen gardens, presenting vitamins and income.
  • Groundwater Recharge: Check dams and water harvesting have drastically recharged depleted groundwater reserves, leading to functioning wells and hand pumps.
  • Ecological Revival: Ponds, rivers, and watersheds have been desilted and revived. Cattle, the natural world, and aquatic life have lower backs.
  • Climate Resilience: Water security makes villages extra resilient to droughts, assisting people to adapt to the water stresses of variable rainfall and growing temperatures due to climate change. Bundelkhand farmers can address floods and water scarcity yearly with functional water structures.
  • Health Impacts: Having water access within or near villages has reduced the struggle of women and children who previously spent hours daily fetching water from distant sources. It has cut water-borne diseases and improved sanitation, health, and hygiene practices.
  • Migration Reduction: When wells ran dry earlier, men would migrate seasonally as laborers to cities seeking work and water. Revived water bodies have enabled farming, providing local livelihoods and keeping families together.
  • Community Participation: The Jal Sahelis have forged a participative model of water management centered around village councils of women. Such grassroots involvement results in equitable and judicious water use year after year.
  • Role Model Effect: Inspired by the Jal Sahelis' success, youth groups, and village councils across over 1,000 villages have sought guidance to revive their water bodies. This has created a ripple effect.
  • Policy Impact: The Jal Saheli model showcases the efficacy of water conservation through community participation. Various government departments in UP and MP are keen to scale up this program to make 5000 villages water secure by 2025.
  • The Jal Saheli movement has shown that empowered women can create water abundance amidst scarcity. Their activism and solutions sustain lives, livelihoods, ecology, and future resilience for over 200,000 citizens today. This feminine and community-centric water management model is deeply replicable across India and the Global South. It reminds us that ordinary women coming together can indeed achieve the extraordinary.

    Also Read: Nurturing Dreams: Kolkata Couple's Vision for India's First Autism Center Township


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