Necessity is the mother of invention: And it is the need for water that eventually led to the invention of ‘jalkund’, a small tank constructed on hill slopes for irrigation. The tank was developed by the ICAR, Meghalaya, for use in that state which experiences dry weather from November to April.
The concept was imported to Goa under the Integrated Wasteland Development Programme and implemented with a focus in South Goa. Of the 159 ‘jalkunds’ constructed so far a majority are located in Quepem, Ponda, Cnacona and Sanguem talukas. A study conduced in Meghalaya showed that a ‘jalkund’ with a capacity of 30,000 litres can support 200 tomato plants, rear five piglets or 50 poultry birds and some fish. In Quepem, the agriculture department is aiming at producing more lady’s fingers and chillies and thereby raise income levels. In other areas it has plans to use jalkunds to irrigate cashew plantations to improve yield.
Goa gets over 2500 mm of rain each year. This year, steady rainfall throughout the months of June, July, August and September saw the figure rise to 3,300 mm. A large amount of rainwater flows into the Arabian Sea and only a fraction is stored in the reservoirs for domestic and irrigation purposes. With water becoming a scarce commodity in far-flung areas, the state started constructing small dams and bandharas during the last decade to conserve as much water as possible. However, it faced a problem with the hilly areas in the interior. There are still areas in south Quepem and Sanguem where water is not as easily available as in coastal areas. Besides, transporting water from low-lying areas up the hill is difficult and expensive. Hence, the government borrowed the ‘jalkund’ scheme which is now in the first year of its implementation.
Water flowing down the slopes is collected in a tank that will roughly store 12,000 litres, one-third of that envisaged for Meghalaya. The tank is lined with a plastic sheet to prevent seepage and a cover to reduce evaporation. According to an estimate made by the agriculture department water from one such tank is sufficient to irrigate 200 to 300 square metres of land making it possible for farmers to grow vegetables on the slopes. The areas in which the scheme is being implemented have not witnessed progress like the rest of the state and agriculture continues to remain the main source of income and sustenance. A ‘jalkund’ is a relatively low-cost tank which can be constructed by the farmers themselves without using any heavy machinery.
Goa’s association with ponds and lakes is ancient. Not so long ago almost every village had a pond, lake or ‘tollem’ which was filled during the monsoons and used to irrigate crops and recharge the groundwater and wells during the dry season. Fishing was a byproduct. Over the years as piped water became a status symbol wells went into disuse and the lakes were neglected or reclaimed for construction. A few still exist, especially in villages where agriculture is still an occupation. The ‘jalkund’ is an extension of this tradition.
Although the ‘jalkund’ signals hope for farmers, it is yet to pass the ultimate test. The scheme was introduced only this year which means water stored during this monsoon will be used in the months of November to April and the results will become apparent only in the early months of 2011. Given the porous soil strata in the state, care will have to be taken when lining the tank because even a small leak will drain all the water. Besides, a proper covering is necessary to ensure that evaporation is kept to the minimum during the hot weather. Also, with Goa becoming malaria endemic some measures will have to be put into place to make certain that ‘jalkunds’ do not become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.