Jalasamrudhi, a rainwater conservation scheme launched in June 2016, used the concept of storing rainwater and releasing it back into the ground.

How 6 Kerala panchayats worked together to achieve water abundance in three years
news Water Conservation Monday, July 22, 2019 - 19:56

When IB Sathish, legislator for Kattakkada constituency, put forward the concept of rainwater harvesting to address the water scarcity in the region, the obstacles were many.

Kattakkada, located a few kilometres from Thiruvananthapuram city, found itself under the semi-critical category in the water scarcity test done by a groundwater estimation committee in 2013.

This year, the test, which is conducted once in every five years, showed that Kattakkada has moved to the safe category. Otherwise water-starved during summers, Kattakkada made the giant leap by conserving rainwater – through all possible means. The concept, which gradually evolved into a scheme – ‘Jalasamrudhi’ (abundance of water) – was initiated by  IB Sathish.

There were no proper guidelines or model to follow, neither was it a government funded scheme. But the concept was effectively implemented in all the six panchayats – Kattakkada, Malayinkeezh, Maranallur, Pallichal, Vilappil and Vilavoorkkal – of the constituency.

The six panchayats had been facing acute water shortage despite being close to two rivers, numerous streams, irrigation channels and ponds. There are a total 59,329 households in the constituency with a total population is 2,27,540. There are six grama panchayats, 122 grama panchayat wards, 14 block panchayat divisions and four district panchayat divisions.

Jalasamrudhi was launched in June 2016, the basic idea being to store rainwater and release it back into the ground. Under the scheme, water quality testing has been completed in 122 wards.

Well recharging from quarry ponds, stream rejuvenation, widening of ponds in government land, inland fishing in 50 ponds (which had been otherwise kept vacant to be used as playgrounds) and avoiding waterlogging through water storage were some of the methods that helped Kattakkada survive the water crisis.

Artificial recharging were done in 36 institutions, including schools, with two pits that can store 16,000 litres of water per day for 100 rainy days and thereby recharge 16,000 litres. As many as 302 farm ponds with average capacity of 300 m3 , were reacharged for 100 days and hence 30000 cubic liter water recharged. The ponds dug for water conservation are also utilised for inland fishing, which in turn have become a means of income for farmers. The earnings from the 50 ponds was Rs 10.78 lakh just in 2018. Temporary check dams were also constructed which enabled increased recharge of groundwater.


In the fourth edition of the World Reconstruction Conference held in Geneva in May this year, Jalasamrudhi was introduced as a noble integrated model for water conservation.

In schools where the artificial recharging is being done, the rainwater is stored in tubes installed on the top of buildings and then diverted into wells. The wells were cleaned in advance for this.

Three teachers in each school have been entrusted with the task of carrying out and monitoring the artificial recharging. Water clubs have also been formed and two students from each class, one boy and one girl, have been given the charge of running the clubs. Water quality testing labs have been set up in one higher secondary school in each panchayat.

“Students can test the quality of the water in the wells at their homes too at the labs. The whole idea of making schools the focus of Jalasamrudhi has been to make children aware of the need to conserve water, which we believe we have achieved,” Jimmy George, a teacher at St Xavier’s School in Peyad panchayat tells TNM.

St Xavier’s has been chosen as the first Haritha (Green) School of the state for effective waste management at the school and for doing away with the use of plastic.

Before the scheme became effective, the panchayats were supplied water in tanker lorries from Aruvikkara dam and Neyyar dam during summer.

“It was harder for schools where the number of students was high. Our school used to pay more than Rs 1 lakh as water bill for three years to get water from Aruvikkara panchayat,” Jimmy George says.

The men behind the success

If the concept and the initiative came from IB Sathish, Land Use Commissioner A Nizamudheen was the one instrumental in implementing Jalasamrudhi.

“Planning is the crux of our department and we rarely get the implementation role. So when we got the opportunity to execute a project, we didn’t look back. We went out into the field and implemented the steps one by one. A good rapport with the MLA made things easier,” Nizamudheen tells TNM.


“The major hurdle was the nature of the soil, also the distance from the ridge to river is less and so water would soon be absorbed from the soil. Another point is, drainage density is also high in the region. The only solution was to pump and store water which we did through artificial recharging,” Nizamudheen adds.

“At first it was conceived as one pit in each house and rain pits were dug in 80% of the houses. Those people who were at first reluctant to dig pits at their homes later did it after realising its relevance. The cover of the rain pits would be damaged in every monsoon and its silt needs to be replaced. And because of this difficulty we began thinking of farm ponds as a more effective method. The farm ponds are 10 metres in height, three meters width and 300 cubic metres in depth,” he adds.

Farm Pond

While the scheme was taking off, there were 19,681 wells in the constituency out of which 14,043 used to dry up during the summer and the quality of available water was poor in many areas. In Vilavoorkkal, the water in wells even became salty in some areas.

Wet lands had decreased drastically from 1,291.31 hectares to 104.67 hectares. Majority of the water resources, including drains, ponds and canals, were in a state of neglect and deterioration, the width of drains had reduced, the area of ponds had shrunk, and canals had not been properly utilised.

“Our target was to educate the children and focus on the schools, the coordination was done at the grassroots level. We kept on speaking about the need to conserve water in every meeting, be it residents association meetings, meetings in schools or grama sabhas… There was a situation when even the reservoir of Aruvikkara dam was empty and people had to depend solely on water from Neyyar dam. Then we asked what if there was no water in Neyyar dam reservoir too, and drove home the point of groundwater conservation,” IB Sathish tells TNM.

“Also, I was firm that the whole mission shouldn’t be linked with politics, so the work could be done with equal impact in every ward. An art rally was conducted with the theme of water conservation in five centres in each panchayat which indeed created a momentum. There has been tremendous coordination between 16 different departments and institutions. We lost the pace only during the floods last year, but we regained it soon,” he adds.

Rally to conserve water led by IB Sathish MLA

The success of the scheme should also be attributed to the seamless coordination between various departments, such as Irrigation, Fisheries and Agriculture.

“The smooth coordination between departments and the enthusiasm of officials made it all happen,” Soman, coordinator from the Fisheries department says.


The work of digging ponds was mostly done under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme by incorporating the works for which panchayats submitted a separate project proposal.

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