India’s growing population of over 1 billion people currently suffer from a major lack of adequate water for drinking, sanitation and irrigation. Poor water management and infrastructure means India is facing ‘a turbulent water future. Unless water management practices are changed – and changed soon – India will face a severe water crisis within the next two decades’ (World Bank, Oct 2005).
In addition, the rate of migration from rural India to cities is placing increasing pressure on failing urban infrastructure; maintenance programmes and new water infrastructure developments are not being implemented fast enough to satisfy current demand or meet projected demand.
Distress migration happens when there is a chronic disaster in an area (drought, degradation) and the inhabitants are forced to migrate seasonally to offer their labour elsewhere. This occurs only when there are not enough assets to ensure a person’s survival without leaving their land. Migration is what fills the slums of the big cities and also what enables the hideous exploitation of the Indian work-force.
A key reason for this continued urbanisation is the increasing challenges of rural agricultural subsistence which relies heavily on water supplies, which sadly are inconsistent and unstable. The emerging generation of farming communities is pushed further and further into the cities, seeking their fortunes from the deceptively glamorous service based economies, rather than from weather dependent agri-economy.
Around 60% of India’s population is directly or indirectly dependent upon agriculture and crucial to every single farmer’s livelihood is a good monsoon rainfall. Farmers and their families bear many pressures such as the extortionate rates of the money lenders and a poor crop yield that can drive the family into forced migration or even to suicide.
The Savitri Trust focuses on tackling the water problem and migration to cities at its root by providing irrigation dug wells that increase farmland yields and farmers’ productivity, thereby improving their livelihoods and greatly reducing migration and the risk of the family falling into debt and extreme poverty in the future. A simple dug well intervention can protect these farmers from being exploited and allows them to lead dignified lives on their own land.