Mazhapolima: Ensuring water security through participatory well-recharge in Kerala.
27th Jul, 2020
Mazhapolima is a participatory climate change adaptation initiative which was launched by the Government of Kerala in Thrissur district. The project aims to alleviate the problem of water scarcity by harvesting rainwater from rooftops and feeding it into open dug wells, which traditionally form the water security mechanisms of the state.
- It was initiated to enhance the water table and increase water availability in open dug wells throughout the year; improve the quality of water in open dug wells; reduce public spending on water tankers, and reduce saline intrusion into open dug wells along the coastal line.
- Households and institutions facing water scarcity, the District Collectorate, the District Rainwater Harvesting Mission, the Revenue Department, Arghyam, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), the Department of Education, the State Planning Board, the Department of Rural Development, the State Bank of Travancore, the Thrissur Pooram City Chamber, and the Malayalam Manorama Group.
- Mazhapolima was conceptualised by a group of like-minded conservationists and water activists in and around Thrissur district under the leadership of the then-District Collector.
- The draft plan was submitted to the Government of Kerala, where after the Department of Disaster Management, under the Ministry of Revenue, sanctioned Rs. 1 crore for the programme.
- After a demonstration of the technique’s effectiveness, Mazhapolima’s implementation began with the constitution of the Mazhapolima Monitoring and Coordination Unit (MMCU) as a special purpose agency attached to the District Collectorate.
- In the implementation of the initiative, the process begins with the Gram Panchayat (GP) submitting a list of possible beneficiaries.
- Although priority is given to below poverty line (BPL) households and other deserving categories, the households above poverty line (APL) are not excluded.
- The next step involves an agreement between the GP and a nominee of the District Collector. Thereafter, work is undertaken by the Beneficiary Committee at the GP level or by workers directly arranged by the GP.
- The MMCU helps in making a technical team available for the installation of open well-recharge units.
- A baseline survey is then conducted and a completion certificate obtained from the respective GP member.
- The initiative is being implemented in phases and improving over time.
- Mazhapolima has demonstrated the ability to respond to a common need with a simple but effective solution that covers four key components – innovation, awareness generation, grievance redressal, and training.
- There were several challenges in the implementation of the programme, especially from the beneficiaries.
- Low attendance at meetings.
- Beneficiaries have not taken care of the flush systems nor installed filter systems.
- Another challenge has been about generating agreements among family members on directing rainwater to open dug wells.
- There has also been resistance to a perceived change in the taste of water after recharge.
- Beneficiaries have also been complacent about water supply after abundant rain, coupled with low hydrogeological literacy among the new generation.
- Some other challenges related to the fact that the initiative was being implemented through PRIs, who preferred short-term solutions like tanker supply during summer.
- Panchayat members often sought equal shares for their respective wards, making it difficult to adopt a community cluster approach. This inadvertently reduced the scope for the participatory approach, making the recharge units more like demonstration models in some target areas.
Replicability & Sustainability
- As a water management model, Mazhapolima is suited to both the east areas and the west coast of Kerala. The technique used is simple to adopt and the financial implications much lower than providing tanker supply to drought-hit areas each year.
- The conditions necessary for replication of the programme are good rainfall and a culture of open wells, as household-level wells have the additional advantage of working as micro-aquifers. Except in certain hydro-geological typologies, most of the coastal locations in India fulfill these conditions. Hence, Mazhapolima represents a low-cost, effective climate change adaptation strategy.
- Mazhapolima has importance in light of the drastic and dramatic global climate change scenario. One of the sustainable ways to deal with the threat is to embrace adaptation mechanisms that reverse or at least limit the adverse impact of climate change. Such initiatives are the need of the hour, even if the pace of change and adoption is slow initially.