Planting lakhs of trees, designing hundreds of check dams, and evolving new techniques of irrigating tree saplings in dry regions are feats of an out-of-the-box thinker named Mr. Premjibhai Patel, Rajkot, Gujarat.
Mr. Patel’s tree planting efforts first started from Rajkot, but soon spread to states such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Every morning, carrying a bagful of seeds and a small spade, the farmer planted seeds on field bunds, along road sides, and vacant lands. Individuals and some institutions also volunteered to help in the farmer’s effort at ecological restoration.
Since manual seed planting proved laborious, Mr. Patel developed a petrol-driven mechanical blower mounted on a jeep back for broadcasting seeds.
The blower, which cost about Rs 12,000, blows seeds upto a distance of 15 meters, says the farmer. Using the blower he broadcasted 10 tonnes of tamarind seeds in several villages.
Mr. Patel also developed a unique technique for tree planting in drought prone regions of Kutch, Bhuj, and Saurashtra. He selected plastic pipes of about seven inches diameter and 1-1.5 feet height.
“Bore two small holes on opposite sides at the top end of the pipe and place it inside a half foot pit. Keep the root of the seedling next to the pipe inside the pit. Add a mixture of sand, soil and gravel to fill the pipe. Insert a small stick through the two holes at the top of the pipe and remove the pipe. Water poured on the sand reaches the roots of plants without wastage or evaporation,” he explains.
The rate of seedlings survival increases by this method, according to the farmer.
Now Mr. Patel is concentrating on watershed development through an organization called Vruksh Prem Seva Sanstha Trust. The trust works through about 150 nature clubs on nearly 1,000 hectares. The trust launched a campaign in several villages for ground water conservation through well recharge.
“Though the government introduced several schemes to encourage the development of checkdams’ in drought prone regions of Gujarat and offered subsidies, villagers did not evince interest in them because they often considered check dams as government projects. To motivate people to actively participate in building dams and to bring awareness on groundwater recharging I introduced a scheme for people,” says the farmer.
Mr. Patel himself bears the cost of checkdam construction except cement cost. (In some cases the farmer also bore the total cost including cement). Those interested in the scheme contacted him and he personally visited the area to get first hand information about the location and help them construct the dams.
Explaining the checkdam construction method Mr. Premjibhai says:
“I place large stones in the middle of the flowing water and use river sand, stones and cement to fill the gap between the stones. Iron rods are inserted into holes in the stones for added strength. The body wall of the dam is built in such a way that it slopes at an angle of 60 degrees and the width of the top wall maintained at one metre height (height can be increased in future).”
According to the farmer, circular dams are more economical than the straight ones, because the thin walls of the dams make them cost effective.
About 1,500 check dams and 50,000 feet of pipeline for recharging underground wells are his contribution to society.
Mr. Premjibhai’s initiative in water conservation ensures water security even in a drought season. Today farmers no longer remain idle even during summer as ground water table has increased considerably and there is timely water availability for agricultural activities. He also bagged the National Water Award recently from the Ministry of Water Resources.
For more information readers can contact Mr. Premjibhai Patel, Fulara Mill Godown, Furniture Gali, Rajmarg, Upleta, Rajkot, mobile: 9426202340.
M. J. Prabhu – From THE HINDU