A sand dam is providing 50% more fresh water to the drought-prone village of Marwar, Rajasthan – improving health and transforming the ability of people to grow food for their families.

Not a drop to drink

Water is scarce in Marwar. But, even the water that is available is unfit for human consumption. Groundwater is extremely saline, up to 10 times more than what is considered safe for people to drink.

Piyathi Devi, a member of the Thumba Ka Goliya community, said: ‘We could not cultivate vegetables because the water was very salty… They (our children) were always having stomach upsets and they used to see the doctors.”

To transform lives, just add water

In 2014, Excellent Development supported the integration of sand dam technology with a Talab (local rainwater harvesting technique) in Thumba Ka Goliya. Piyathi Devi, a member of the Thumba Ka Goliya community, IndiaIt is having an incredible impact on the lives of 100 families (about 600 people) nearby.

‘We could not cultivate vegetables because the water was very salty… They (our children) were always having stomach upsets and they used to see the doctors.”

Piyathi Devi, member of the Thumba Ka Goliya community, India.

Kapoara Ravi, a government representative from the Public Health and Engineering Department told us: “Before (the sand dam talab) we were getting 70,000 litres (per day). Now we are getting 110,000 litres (per day).”

In Marwar, this is an astonishing result. Water scarcity in the region means women and girls spend a quarter of every day collecting water - severely disrupting or preventing girls’ education. The water table has been declining at a rate of 1 to 2 metres per year. And, on average, there are six droughts every decade.

Sweet water on tap

Since the sand dam talab was built, there has been a remarkable change in the quality and availability of water. Health is improving and people are, for the first time, able to irrigate their family farms - increasing and diversifying food production.

Dhanni Devi, a Thumba Ka Goliya community member, told us: “Because of this structure we have been able to get good water...Because of this, our cattle's health is far better than it used to be. We are getting better milk. And, more milk. The crops are getting better and our health is far better than it used to be earlier. Our sickness has gone down. Now our grandchildren are getting sweet water.”

Hanuman Rathore, a community mobiliser with our India partner, Jal Bhagirathi Foundation, added: “People are appreciating this and there is more demand for similar structures. The community are ready to contribute. The taste of water is sweeter.”

Water for food

The water isn’t only better for drinking: with much lower salinity, people are reclaiming the ability to grow food for their families. Piyathi said: “When we used to try to grow certain crops, they used to get burned… (Now) I grow coriander, tomatoes, chilli for the first time after this sand dam construction.”

Marwar covers 40% of the state of Rajasthan, one of the most vulnerable states in India, where 75% of villages have problems associated with high water salinity. Many thousands of people could transform their lives with sand dams here.

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