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"Public property"

Is that even a meaningful phrase? Is it identical to "state-owned" property?

Could a watershed, an airshed, or an aquifer be considered "public property"? If so, what would that look like and how would it be managed?

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Clonal Antibody's picture
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One Example

Pani panchayat creates reverse migration

Mahur village in Purandhar block of Pune district is like a green oasis in the parched, drought prone district of Maharashtra. Standing on a small hillock, for miles around green fields could be seen. At the base of the hillock is a minor irrigation tank into which the rainwater is harvested. This almost perennially full water body is the lifeline of Mahur village and its principle of equity in water distribution is its sustenance.

In a country where rural people failing to get return from their agricultural lands are migrating to the big cities in search of jobs, in the 30 odd villages of Pune district where Vilasrao Salunkhe's pani panchayats are in operation, reverse migration has begun. Farmers who were getting barely 50 kg of bajra and jowar per acre and the annual income was Rs.2500 to Rs.4000 are now earning Rs.10000 to Rs.1 lakh from the same land. In addition to the traditional cereals, farmers in this area are growing wheat, onions, vegetables, a variety of flowers like marigolds, lilies etc., fruits and a cash crop that is not a water guzzler. The villagers practice organic farming. They have been able to provide employment to people from the adjoining villages and farmers who had gone to Pune and other cities for work are returning home.

Engineer turned farmer

The man who pioneered the radical technological and social innovations that repair and restore degraded water sheds and guarantee each family within the community an equal share of the water harvested, is an engineer with his own factory. It was in 1972, after the terrible drought that affected some 4-lakh people in Maharashtra that Mr.Salunkhe realised the need to intervene. There was just no water available for agriculture of any kind. Even drinking water was scarce and tankers would supply water for basic needs.

Travelling extensively in the area, he found villagers breaking stones for road construction in a desperate bid to earn subsistence allowance from the government.

The engineer in him realised that environmental regeneration and water shed development with the full participation of the community was the only solution. Rainfall in this region fluctuated between 250 mm and 500mm. He initially tried his ideas of water shed development on a 16-hectare plot of hillside in Naigaon village in Purandhar block. The land belonged to the temple trust but it was barren and uncultivable. He got the land from the trust on a 50-year lease and built a hut where he and his family lived and worked with the community.