Gujarat: model villages

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As in 2023

March 18, 2023: The Times of India

Gujarat’s model villages
From: March 18, 2023: The Times of India

Modhera in Gujarat’s Mehsana district was recently declared India’s first 24x7 solar-powered village, but other villages in the state are also becoming trendsetters in sustainability. Take Kunariya in Kachchh, for example. It lies 18km from district headquarters Bhuj. Reducing carbon emissions is today the primary goal here. 

Kunariya Goes Beyond ‘Lagaan’ Fame

Most Indians have been acquainted with Kunariya via Aamir Khan’s 2001 film Lagaan. But two decades on, this village with 4,000 residents is drawing attention for using renewable energy and practising self-sufficiency in agriculture and waste management.

The residents have planted 1. 6 lakh trees in the past five years and will plant 40,000 more this year in pursuit of their green goals. Meanwhile, talks are on with a company to install a 3-gigawatt solar plant. Sarpanch Suresh Chhanga says the firm has agreed in principle to set up the Rs 4 crore project that will help the village save Rs 7 lakh per monthon power bills. And all of this is happening without government funds. “We know that carbon emissions can exacerbate the impact of climate change and we worry for our future generations,” says Chhanga.

Cattle outnumber people in Kachchh, so Kunariya uses dung to make biogas as a cheaper alternative to LPG. Around 50 families have signed up for biogas plants and 22 already use the fuel. Mukesh Kerasiya used to spend Rs 1,100 on LPG for his family of eight every month. After investing Rs 5,000 in a biogas plant last month, he hopes to “save a lot of money”.

The 50-odd farmers who have built rainwater harvesting facilities have seen improvements in water quality as well. Kailash Chad, who owns a 12-acre plot, says not only has the water table risen but also “the TDS (total dissolved solids) level of groundwater has reduced from 4,000 to 1,500 (mg/l)” over two years. 

Bhimasar Reborn From 2001’s Rubble

Kachchh’s Bhimasar, which was reduced to rubble in the 2001 earthquake,is another example of a self-sufficient village. Located 18km from Anjar, it provides facilities on a par with a citybut is way greener.

The village of 8,000 souls has wide roads flanked by trees, six community centres, a network of 60 CCTV cameras, a monitoring centre at the panchayat office, a sewage line and a sewage treatment plant. Bhimasar earns around Rs 1. 5 lakh a year by selling treated wastewater.

“Last year, we also set up a high-end gymnasium like you have in posh urban areas. Wehave planted 1,500 trees in a year and allotted five more acres of land for tree plantation,” says sarpanch Dahiben Hareshbhai Humbal. “We are not waiting for the PM Awas Yojana; we construct homes for the homeless too. The panchayat allots them houses and the ownership is transferred to them after they pay the installments. ” 

Dharmaj Seeks Greener Pastures

NRI-rich Dharmaj village in Petladtaluka of Anand district had implemented a pasture-improvement project in 1971 that provided fodder grown on wasteland at subsidised rates. Impressed by Dharmaj’s ‘Gauchar Sudharna’ model, Narendra Modi had encouraged other villages to follow it in his first term as Gujarat CM.

“Even today, a 20kg fodder bag sells for Rs 22 here, compared with Rs 80-100 elsewhere,” says Rajesh Patel, a Dharmaj resident. The village has turned 110 acres of wasteland into pasture and earns Rs 50 lakh every year from it. Dharmaj uses its treated wastewater to irrigate the wasteland-turned pasture. It has also built a recreational park with an artificial lake. 

Punsari Lives Up To Model Billing

Located 100km from Ahmedabad, Punsari in Sabarkantha district wonGujarat’s first Adarsh Gram (model village) award, and has done much to deserve it. You will find Anganwadi centres with advanced infrastructure, air-conditioned schools, biometric attendance machines for panchayat members, biogas plants, CCTV cameras, etc. 
Since groundwater in Punsari has a TDS of 2,000 mg/l, the village has set up a reverse osmosis (RO) plant that sells 20 litres of desalinated water for Rs 4 to its residents, and to the other villages for Rs 20. It earns Rs 1. 5 lakh per annum from the plant. The waste RO water is stored and used to wash vehicles.

The village of 5,000 has a drainage system and a super-sucker machine to eliminate manual cleaning of drains. The drainage and drinking water lines are GPS-mapped. Himanshu Patel, who is credited with transforming Punsari after taking over as sarpanch in 2006, says their development is based on a ‘people-panchayatpublic-private partnership’. 

No Hunger In Jethipura

National Family Health Survey data shows nearly 40% of Gujarat’s children are underweight for their age, but in Sabarkantha district’s Jethipura village no child is malnourished. Anganwadi workers ensure that expectant mothers get nutritious food – a millet-based diet, green vegetables, sukhdi and milk. If a child is born underweight, special attention is paid to the mother’s nutrition.

Jethipura has 100% metered water supply, something that Ahmedabad is yet to achieve. Water is available 24x7 and the residents pay Rs 1. 5 for every 1,000 litres. The village also boasts a modern drainage system and electricity supply. In 2021, Jethipura was among the 10 villages that won Gujarat the national award for clean and green schools. 

Afva Putting Dollars To Work

Four out of five households in this Surat village have at least one member in the US, and the NRIs have funded change over the past few decades. You will not find dangling electricity cables or overflowing sewage in Afva. Speakers along the streets play soothing devotional music all day. The streets themselves are surfaced with paver block and drains run underground.

“We have underground electricity cables, water pipelines, telephone lines, and internet cables. The projects were planned and executed in order to make it the perfect development model,” says Dipak Patel Sardar, who is settled in the US.

The village of 2,500 residents has a water purification and distribution plant, a public hall with space for 1,000. It’s even built a ring road around the village,” says Lallu Patel, former sarpanch.

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