Lapodiya, a village of 200 households in Rajasthan, around 80 km from state capital Jaipur, has adopted innovative water conservation practices and a culture which they have improvised and perfected over three decades.
The severe drought of 1977 in Rajasthan affected the livelihoods of rural communities and several poor families started migrating to nearby towns in search of work. Moved by the situation, Laxman Singh — a progressive resident of Laporiya village — mobilized the youth under the banner of Gram Vikas Navyuvak Mandal, Laporia (GVNML) to address the immediate need — water.
GVNML workers designed and developed a unique and ingenious technique locally called the ‘Chauka system’. The Chauka system is an in-situ rainwater conservation technique to rejuvenate the available degraded grasslands/ pasturelands or common charnot/gauchar lands of the villages in arid and semi-arid regions. It is a distinct departure from the conventionally recommended rainwater conservation measures.
‘Chauka’ literally means a rectangular enclosure, a small gradient enveloped by earthen bunds or dykes on three sides to provide perfect provision for the safe disposal of excess rainwater from the upslope side. Chaukas form a series of interconnected water dyke with a gap left on one side, so that there is a sustained flow of water from one Chauka to another. These are constructed across the slope at a predetermined spacing for intercepting the runoff and retaining it on the greater part of the field till it is absorbed. In the absence of the Chaukas, this water would otherwise be lost as runoff, carrying along with it the finer, fertile sediment rich in organic matter. Stored runoff water gets an increased opportunity to stay on the land, thereby increasing infiltration and percolation. Increased infiltration and percolation improves the soil moisture regime of the arable lands downstream and helps in increasing its productivity. Further, this also greatly helps in recharging groundwater. Increased groundwater recharge also enhances the recuperation rate of wells situated in the lower reaches; ultimately, it increases the irrigation potential as well as the availability of drinking water resources for both people and livestock even during low rainfall years.
In Laporiya, utilizing each drop of rainwater, chaukas have replenished the aquifers and also serve as drinking troughs for the village livestock. With adequate water, different varieties of grasses have been sown along Chaukas.