Thursday, November 18, 2010


During the recent times water issues have become a vital point in the development processes of this country and it is becoming a reason for conflict in the national as well as in the local scales. Several acts have already been implemented to control the indiscriminate use of water but there is a serious gap of understanding between the implementers of law and the common people. The main reason lies in the lack of perception about the real qualitative and quantitative condition of water resource in the local context. To overcome the gap in this perception it is necessary to involve the common people in the process of water resource data generation. If water resource is systematically monitored by participatory method involving the local people the real state of this natural resource will be easily understood by them.

Water monitoring involves gathering periodical, scientific data and information about water quality and quantity of a locality. The data are analyzed to determine whether the available quantity of water is sufficient to meet the needs of these various uses. Data are also used to educate participants and to evaluate human impacts on water, as well as the effect of measures implemented to improve water quality.

Due to introduction of panchayeti raj system grass root level planning is done by the common people. In most cases in water resource development planning the grass root level planners depend on the data collected by the Government departments. Participatory monitoring is one established and accepted way for the public to make informed decisions. Participatory water monitoring can be especially important in helping prevent water-related conflicts that may arise in the extractive industry and large-scale agriculture sectors.

With this understanding a water literacy programme was conducted in West Bengal, India by Science Communicators’ Forum a Kolkata based NGO. Under this programme a model of peoples’ participation in water resource monitoring was introduced. It was a series of activities for making people aware of conserving and augmenting water resources that they access. The programme was organised from April 2007 to July 2009 with financial support from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. One major component of the programme was participatory water resource monitoring and water resource mapping.

The five components of an effective participatory monitoring program are
• Initiating and developing a resource toolkit
• Identification of participants
• Training
• Action programme of data generation
• Awareness building


The resourece toolkit contains a set of posters required for the awareness campaigns. The fundamental resource material was a book named Jalabandhu in Bengali. The different topics discussed in the book are

A The fundamentals of water resources, issues and problems
B. Measurement and management of water resources
C. Organisational activities to be done by ‘sub basin group’s and Jalabandhu groups

It was initially decided that the programme will have representative coverage of the whole of West Bengal. So the state was initially sub divided into ten sub basin areas where ten sub basin level organizers would operate. Under each sub basin there would be ten Jalabandhu groups who would be the actual participant in the water resource monitoring and campaign activities. Through several trials potential organisations who are capable of forming ‘sub basin group’s could be identified. The network of children’s science congress came into help. The 33 Bengal battalion of NCC volunteered to participate in this programme.

After identification of the Sub-basin groups several meetings were held. A brain storming session was also conducted in July 2007 where representatives of ‘sub basin group’s attended.
After that the Subbasin groups were asked to organize Jalabandhu groups within their subbasins. A Jalabandhu group may be formed by people from any sector of the society. These groups may be from schools colleges, clubs, farmer group, social workers group, self help group or anything. There should be 5 to 10 active members of the group. The types of Jalabandhu groups formed are.

• School: 34
• School Cluster: 8
• Local group: 40
• Club: 13
• Self Help Group: 5

Total number of members in 100 Jalabandhu groups in West Bengal was 1023. They came from all sections of the society.

The 'sub basin' group workshops were organised by the 'sub basin' group organisers. Since more than 10 organisations were in charge of the 10 sub basins therefore the workshops are held in 11 places. The objective of the workshops was to train the Jalabandhu groups. The participants were trained in understanding fundamentals of water resource, sustainable use of water resource, ecology and water resource, water pollution and water related issues.
Activity based training was also imparted on 1. Techniques of monitoring local water resources, 2. Mapping of water resources, 3. Water budgeting and 4. Water resource development planning in local context.
Certain norms had been set for conducting mapping, survey, local meeting or workshop, exhibition, etc. The norms are:
Activity Norm
Water level measurement: Should be taken during pre and post monsoon period.
Mapping : The maps should be in cadastral scale and should cover a village or municipal ward.
Door to door survey : Should be conducted from at least 50 households.
Exhibition : Should be arranged in schools, colleges or in public places.
Meeting or workshop : Meeting should involve local panchayet, clubs etc

Protocols for collecting water monitoring data were set according to the nationally accepted norms.

After training of the Jalabandhu groups action programme started. Each ‘sub basin group’ submitted the tentative campaign and action programmes. It had been decided that there should be 11 action programmes one in each month. The ‘sub basin’groups were asked to submit a tentative schedule of programmes of the Jalabandhu groups under their jurisdiction.
Some Jalabandhu groups started it in March 2008 and some started it from a later month. But each Jalabandhu group strictly followed the schedule of water level monitoring. It was also decided that each Jalabandhu group would submit a monthly report of their activities in prescribed form to the ‘sub basin group’.

Several types of forms had been prepared for the programme so that the Jalabandhu groups can perform the action programmes in a uniform way and collect same type of data during the surveys.

The Jalabandhu groups collected mouja maps or ward maps of their locality. After that they conducted field work and plotted all the water bodies and water related structures. They also collected relevant data regarding ponds, tube wells. The data had been collected in prescribed forms. There are two types of forms one for wells (dug well/ tube well) another is for water bodies.

This is one of the most important tasks of Jalabandhu groups. They have communicated with local panchayet and local clubs, civic bodies etc to explain their future programme and objectives. Panchayet level meetings are held two times. One at the begining of the programme where a institutional support is required to make the events successful. The second meeting is held at the end of the programme where the outcome is reviewed and future programmes are envisaged. In most cases the panchayets have taken active part in the campaign from the begining to the end.
It is reported that all 100 Jalabandhu groups conducted panchayet level meeting and generated awareness to the panchayet members about local water resource and the need of conservation at the local level.

In the Action programme emphasis was given on monitoring of groundwater. Groundwater level, as monitored at observation wells, is the most important indicator of the state of the resource in terms of availability for use and the likely effects on the environment. Environmental effects, such as the low-flow regime of streams and salt water intrusion, are determined primarily by piezometric levels in the connecting aquifers.

The dynamic variability of groundwater levels at observation wells located throughout an aquifer has some components common to all the wells. This means that even one well, suitably located, can provide a significant amount of information about the overall state of the resource. The value of groundwater level observations increases more with length of record than with number of observation sites, because of the common dynamic components.

The Jalabandhu groups selected 5 to 10 wells in their locality which are earmarked as observation wells.

The main objective of the door to door campaign was to make personal contacts with local people. Each member of a Jalabandhu group visited at least ten houses to explain the objective of the water literacy campaign and ask them to conserve water and use water judiciously. During this campaign leaflets/ booklets were distributed.

The main objective of door to door survey is to collect water related data from a household. The datasheet for this survey has been designed to generate information like socio-economic status, water use, drainage and sanitation system, etc. Working out a household water budget is another objective of the door to door survey. In this survey Jalabandhu members visited at least 50 households of their locality and collected relevant data in prescribed format. The data later had been analysed and reported by the ‘sub basin’groups. Through this survey the actual water requirement of households belonging to different geographical region of west Bengal and also belonging to different socio economic groups is understood.

Posters developed by SCF has been displayed by all Jalabandhu groups in poster exhibitions organised by them in different occassions like local meeting, rally or padayatra


Public meetings are held at the end months of the programme. Local resource persons, Jalabandhu members, panchayet members, local people attended such meeting. It was found that 20 to 30 persons attended a meeting on an average.
In those meeting the Jalabandhu groups displayed the scientific data collected by them. They also submitted a concise report of the state of water resources in their locality and discussed the methods of water resource development planning in the local area. Their statements are generally supported by maps and data.

It may be noted that through this programme the state of West Bengal is benefitted to a great extent. At least 10 organisations have been identified as sub basin organisers who in future can act as local level managers of similar outreach and action programmes. These organisations have shown their capacity in organising field based training workshops.

Through the action programmes of Jalabandhu groups a good number of people have been identified as enthusiast communicators. Among them are social workers, students, teachers, housewives, farmers and people's representatives.

Geography Department of Nort Bengal University has emerged as a resource organisation of West Bengal in the field of science communication related to water. Several new organisations have been identified through this programme that have very good local base and if supported by resources they can perform a lot towards science communication activities in the state.

Formation of 100 Jalabandhu group is a very small count compared to the very big geographical extent of the state. But this limited number of water crusaders have done a lot in communicating the science of ecology related water resource to the common people around them.

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