Neemi's battle to rescue rainwater from the clutches of the wretched earth began years ago. With a stripped, barren Aravalli standing witness in the backdrop, water-starved villagers had built the hamlet's first earthen dam with their own hands and the assistance of an ngo. After this, they built another earthen dam, a few other smaller checkdams and renovated old, abandoned village tanks. "We decided to capture every single drop of rain water that fell upon our land. We built and we dug and we planted trees as if life itself depended on it," gushes Natha Singh. "And in the end we won! Our land is fertile, the hillocks are green now. Today, we've conquered drought."
The water warriors have indeed won the day, and certainly this year's drought. A few ordinary men and women have given themselves and us oases of life and hope even as eight states in India reel under drought, dearth and disaster. They are part of crusading communities scattered through our country's many villages and townships and have been combating water scarcity through hundreds of indigenous water-saving methods. Digging lakes, watershed systems, simple pits, building small earthen dams, dykes, sand and limestone reservoirs, rooftop water-collection devices...saving up for dry days, recharging groundwater levels, bringing dead rivers back to life. Taking on hostile geography and transforming their difficult lives for the better. Learning, relearning and teaching each other the art of harvesting water.