Defeating Drought through Rainwater Harvesting

Lakshman Singh’s ingenious method of rainwater harvesting has helped relieve Laporia, a small village near Jaipur, of drought and poverty.

By Unsung

Mahesh Bhat

Ram Karan by Mahesh BhatUnsung

Parched place

In India, water scarcity is a crisis affecting almost 20% of the population.

76 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

Oil seeds growing in Anna Sagar by Mahesh BhatUnsung

Dry state

And until recently, Lapodiya, a small village near Jaipur in Rajasthan - India's most arid state - suffered from severe drought.

Lakshman Singh by Mahesh BhatUnsung

Water warrior

Lakshman Singh was just 18 years old when he thought to repair the raised banks of the village's reservoir, to collect even a small amount of rainwater to help irrigate the fields.

But the villagers mocked him. 'And who would pay to make the repairs?'

Singh proposed that the villagers all pitch in, volunteering their time, since they would benefit from the work if the plan was successful and the reservoir irrigated the fields.

But the villagers scoffed at his suggestion - they had better things to do.

Singh resolved to do it alone.

The 'Chauk' method of rain water harvesting by Mahesh BhatUnsung

Singh eventually garnered support from locals, and together they repaired the 1.5km-long, 15-foot-high banks.

After the rains came, the pond filled for the first time in decades.

And in 1984, the pond irrigated 1,800 acres of farmland.

Ram Karan by Mahesh BhatUnsung

Singh set about devising an ingenious system for capturing and directing rainwater on the outskirts of the village.

Guiding the water

The Chauka ('town square') system uses a series of channels and square pits fringed by two-foot-high banks in a checkerboard pattern.

Rainwater is guided down the natural slope of the land and into nearby ponds, making grassy patches on the pits where cattle can graze.

Laporia Village by Mahesh BhatUnsung

From an impoverished, drought-afflicted, conflict-ridden village, Laporia became a trail-blazing symbol of rural renewal, a self-sufficient oasis of agricultural produce, peace and harmony.

Lakshman Singh by Mahesh BhatUnsung

Reflecting on his achievements, Singh comments:

“As businessmen and officers, my classmates make more money than me.

"But I have the satisfaction of changing the life of my entire village.”

Entrance of Laporiya Village by Mahesh BhatUnsung

The board at the entrance of Laporia states:

“This is an open bird house. In this pasture no one shall harm or kill the wild animals and birds. The trees and shrubs shall not be cut. Encroaching this land is not allowed. If anyone indulges in these activities they will be punished.”

Credits: Story

Photography: Mahesh Bhat.

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