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The Times of India, May 01 2016
Patoda's residents have learnt a valuable lesson -that water is more precious than money . They follow strict rules about usage and water audits are stringent. Households have water meters and the entire village recycles every drop of waste water it generates. So effective is its water conservation model that Patoda has now become a model for the rest of Marathwada.
“It didn't happen overnight. We have been working for the last 10-12 years to ensure that every raindrop is saved and no water, not even waste, flows out of our village. The water balance sheet you see today is the result of strict discipline,“ says Bhaskar Pere-Patil, who developed the water model which has won 22 state and national awards. “The drought in Marathwada is man-made.People have failed to make efficient use of available water or recycle it. If Israel can perform miracles in its arid land, why can't we?“ Pere-Patil asks.
Patoda's story is the stuff film scripts are made of. It used to be a filthy village that suffered perennial water shortage.Pere-Patil, who has only studied till Class VII, was once a local hooligan who terrorized villagers into voting for him as sarpanch. In the years when he headed the village, he did nothing for it.
Then one day, 10 years ago, Pere Patil happened to overhear villagers talking about him. “I was shocked to learn that people saw me as some kind of a wild animal. I realized that they showed me deference only because I had money and muscle. I would earn their respect only if I did something for them,“ says Pere-Patil.
Not only did he decide to change himself, but he also set about driving change in the village. His first initiative was to stop open defecation. Then came the troubling issue of water.
“Initially, we went along only because we were afraid of him. But after some time, we realized that he is genu inely trying to change himself and the village,“ say the women. They soon joined his mission.
The Kham River, which flows past the village, had been reduced to a nullah with unchecked release of sewage and effluents. The wells had no potable water and the government water supply scheme was neither enough nor potable.
“We were forced to look elsewhere for a solution. We could not generate water, but we could certainly conserve what we get. The first step was saving rainwater by building several bunds across the nullahs. Today , no rain water flows out of our village. Percolation has recharged the aquifers and the water table has risen,“ says Pere-Patil.
Once water was available in village wells, the gram panchayat decided to set up a water filtration plant on its own. Then came the concept of a water meter and ATM machine. Though there were government funds for various schemes the core contribution came from the villagers.
Today , the gram panchayat provides 20 litres of filtered mineral water free to all the 581 families that use ATM cards. The machine operates 24x7 through the year. “It will never be empty. We have deposited all our effort in it,“ says youngster Ravindra Jadhav as he inserts a card into the slot to draw 20 litres of water.
Additional filtered water is available through metered water supply at Rs 5 per 1,000 litres. Water from the government supply scheme and some wells is used for washing and cleaning.