Uttar Pradesh: How the govt utilised the MGNREGA to revive a river and improved the lives of scores in the process

The Uttar Pradesh Government, for quite some time, has planned on rejuvenating rivers and in the process, generate employment under the MGNREGA. Numerous rivers are under the radar for rejuvenation and the state government under Yogi Adityanath and Minister for Rural Development Rajendra Pratap Singh are attempting to utilise the opportunity to provide employment to those currently in need of it. One river that has already been rejuvenated is the Odi river.

The Odi river originates in Madanpur village in Lalitpur and travels a distance of 20 kms across 8 revenue villages. The construction of 10 check dams on the river, over a period of time, resulted in choking of the river as a consequence of siltation. It eventually resulted in the drying up of the river leading to loss of vegetation, drying up of wells and agricultural prospects in the region appeared bleak as well.

A document prepared by Yogesh Kumar, additional commissioner of MNREGA, noted, “The total of 4 gram panchayats including the Gram Panchayat Madanpur, Didaunia, Hansera and Paharikala are situated in the basin of this river. Because of the formation of excessive check dams on river Odi and due to the accumulation of the silts, the river’s water source had ceased and the river also lost its original form. This river had completely disappeared for the last several years and the geographical and vegetative balance of the river started to deteriorate, due to which the revival of the river Odi was extremely important.”

The local administration became aware of the plight of the river, and after much deliberation, the task of reviving it was taken up under MGNREGA. According to the plan, 42 locations were selected in a distance of 14 Kms from Madanpur to Jamni Dam for work related to water conservation. In 33 of these places, the work was completed between April to June 2019. The work in the remaining 9 were started in March the same year and additional 5 spots were identified.

The work started with the process of de-siltation of the water way and involved the repair of the check dams. 25000 saplings were planted on either side of the river. A total of 70,666 person-days of work was generated in the process and 558 families were benefitted as a consequence. Desilting work was carried out at Madanpur, Didoniya, Hashera and Pahadikala.

On the completion of the work, the lost river resumed its flow and the entire stretch was flush with the water. The vegetation in the area revived as well and about 250 dried-up wells were recharged. It benefitted 3500 families through irrigation with an area of 9600 acres being irrigated by the Odi river. The rejuvenated river helped improve the lives of the people in the region to a great degree and also improved the ecosystem in the area.

Where water was available only for 5 months earlier, water is now available throughout the year. 700 acres of barren land were converted into agriculture land in the process and consequently, the farmers are available to double the crop from the land. It has enhanced their income and has reduced migration from the region. The effort has been awarded by the Government of India with the National Water Award.

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