Mission Amrit Sarovar to combat water crisis, boost employment in rural areas

With an aim to construct 50,000 ponds for conserving water by August 15, 2023, Mission Amrit Sarovar not only seeks to boost water security in the country but millions of rural residents are also finding a livelihood opportunity in the construction of these ponds. Uttar Pradesh has a target of constructing 11,638 such ponds. Read on to know more.

Jyotsna RichhariyaJyotsna Richhariya   10 Aug 2022 4:08 PM GMT

Mission Amrit Sarovar to combat water crisis, boost employment in rural areas

MGNREGA workers at Manpur Gram Panchayat in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh. All Photos: By Arrangement

Vijay Dixit, a daily wage labourer from Kashipur village, doesn't have to migrate to far off cities anymore. He can now easily find employment in and around his own village in Rampur district of Uttar Pradesh.

"Ever since this talaab [pond] work has begun, I can stay with my family and be able to earn rozi roti [livelihood]... Life was much harder before as I had no option but to leave my loved ones behind and go to cities like Delhi in order to find work," Dixit told Gaon Connection.

Dixit is amongst thousands of labourers working under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in Uttar Pradesh who have been included as part of the 'Mission Amrit Sarovar' — a Union government initiative which was launched on April 24 this year. The mission seeks to construct 50,000 ponds across India, each measuring an acre [almost half an hectare] with a water holding capacity of 10,000 cubic metres by August 15, 2023.

Map of Amrit Sarovar Site in Block Bakshi ka talab, Lucknow.

The mission has the primary objective of conserving water along with generating employment opportunities for the rural workforce which usually migrates to serve as daily wage labourers far away from their native villages. Also, these ponds are supposed to manifest as a local tourist hub where people from adjoining locations can visit for outings, participate in public events and celebrations.

Interestingly, the country's first Amrit Sarovar [literally translates as nectar pond] was set up almost 20 kilometres away from Dixit's village — at Patwai block of Rampur – and inaugurated on May 13 by former Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

In Uttar Pradesh, a total of 11,638 such sarovars are to be built by next year's independence day. According to official documents accessed by Gaon Connection, as of July 28, 6,001 such sarovars are built while work is ongoing on 10,312 ponds. Labourers working under the MGNREGS on the project are paid Rs 213 for a day's labour.

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Amrit Sarovars to serve as venues for celebrating national festivals

Yogesh Kumar, Additional Commissioner, Department of Rural Development in Uttar Pradesh informed Gaon Connection that these ponds will not only help in conserving water and generating employment but also act as public spaces to invoke patriotic sentiments during national festivals.

"These Amrit Sarovars will provide an opportunity to the people to come out of their socio-cultural norms and celebrate national festivals together," explained Kumar.

The official also stated that each such Amrit Sarovar site is set to have a designated area to hoist the national flag.

"These sites are also a medium to develop a feeling of nationalism amongst the people," Kumar added.

Also, public participation in the setting up of these sarovars is stated to be vital in a set of guidelines on the mission issued by the Union government.

At Amrit Sarovar site in Kothi Gram Panchayat, Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh

"Foundation stone for the Amrit Sarovar will be led by freedom fighter or her/his family member or by the family of martyr (post-independence) or a local Padma awardee. In case there is no such citizen available, the eldest citizen of the specific/local gram Panchayat to be engaged," the guidelines mention.

"People may also participate by donating construction material, benches and by Shram Daan. It may also seek such support through crowd sourcing and CSR [corporate social responsibility] contributions," it added.

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Soil dug out from ponds to used in infrastructure project

Additional Commissioner Kumar further added that the government has come up with an efficient idea to use the soil dug out from these ponds for infrastructural projects such as the elevation of land for the construction of highways.

"The Union government has asked the Ministry of Railways and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to use the soil or silt excavated from these ponds and tanks in all districts under the Amrit Sarovar Mission for their infrastructure projects,"the official informed Gaon Connection.

As per a press statement issued by the Union Ministry of Rural Development on May 11, a total of 12,241 sites were finalised for the construction of Amrit Sarovars across the country, out of which construction had begun on 4,856 such project sites.

The mission involves a total of six agencies — Union Ministry of Rural Development, Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, Union Ministry of Culture, Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and Ahmedabad-based Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geo-informatics (BISAG-N).

Transform Rural India Foundation (TRIF) is a grassroot level organisation working closely with state administration in Uttar Pradesh to implement the project in an efficient manner.

"Twenty per cent of the total Amrit Sarovar sites will be constructed prior to 15th August, 2022 as per the order of central government," Deepak Mathur, state coordinator, of the TRIF told Gaon Connection.

"Our organisation is working to provide technical support to the district administrations. We help them in data collection, monitoring and generating feedback," Mathur added.

While talking about the ground challenges faced in completing the project on time, Monika, Assistant Project Officer of the Mission Amrit Sarovar in Uttar Pradesh's Barabanki district informed Gaon Connection that the monsoon rains have slowed the progress of the project.

"We set a target of constructing 232 sites by 15th August this year in Barabanki. However, due to rains the process has slowed down," she said.

This story has been published as part of collaboration with Transform Rural India Foundation.

#Employment #Amrit Sarovar #MGNREGA #RuralIndia #uttarprdesh 

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