1,423 check dams to be opened in Maharashtra

Mumbai, June 8 (IANS) In a revolutionary attempt to provide a long-term solution to the scourge of annual droughts, the Maharashtra government will throw open 1,423 check dams in six districts of the state Sunday.

The dams will store water for drinking and agriculture as well as raise the ground water levels and charge the local acquifers.

Minister for Employment Guarantee Scheme and Water Conservation Nitin Raut called the project "a unique initiative, perhaps the first of its kind initiative on such a large scale anywhere in the world".

The check dams will be inaugurated Sunday 11 a.m. simultaneously in Pune, Satara, Sangli, Ahmednagar, Solapur and Osmanabad districts.

Comprising only the Phase I of the total project, these 1,423 check dams - or Cement Nalla Bands (CNBs), as they are known in officialdom - were constructed in the past two-three months at a cost of Rs.143 crore.

CNBs are constructed of cement-concrete and can store 10 TCM water and provide water to around four hectares of land.

The CNBs get full at least three-four times during the monsoon and help ground water supply to wells in the vicinity, recharge acquifers and improve ground water levels.

With a life-span of up to 25 years, a CNB costs around Rs.10 lakh to construct.

"The newly-built CNBs would be able to hold monsoon water for a longer period and help direct and indirect irrigation in over 5,000 hectares of land, proving a boon in the parched areas of the state," Raut said.

Bouyed by the response to the first phase of CNBs, the state government has already started work on the Phase II to construct 2,340 CNBs at a cost of Rs.234 crore.

An ambitious Phase III, involving around 5,000 CNBs, will be taken up after funds are made available for the project.

Raut said that in Maharashtra, CNBs were traditionally constructed using local materials as part of watershed treatment in downstream areas.

Though the cement check dams are more expensive, they last longer, hold water quickly and are longer lasting, compared to comprehensive watershed development, which is a long-drawn five-year activity.

For better impact, the upstream areas of the targeted regions have been straightened, widened and deepened for better storage and seepage to the CNBs.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Raut shall jointly inaugurated the CNB project in Satara's Mann region and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar shall do the honours at the CNBs in Pune's Purandar region Sunday.

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