Panna, (IANS) A project to deepen Dharam Sagar lake in Panna district of Madhya Pradesh has elicited a heart-warming response from the public, promising to become a model of volunteerism in the drought-prone Bundelkhand region.
Local people have contributed over Rs.23 lakh to save the lake.
The 261-year-old lake has an iconic status for Panna district, but large parts of its 75 acres have now dried up to resemble a play ground.
“When Dharam Sagar is brimming with water, it accounts for 30 percent of Panna town’s water supply,” said B.S. Bundela, former president of the municipality, and the foremost campaigner for the project to deepen the lake.
That is more than a sufficient reason for the people of this drought-hit district in Bundelkhand to try to save the lake, he said.
Bundela met District Collector Shiv Narayan Chauhan to suggest a plan to revive the lake, based on ‘jan bhagidari’ (public participation) and ‘shram daan’ (donating one’s labour).
Chauhan was helpful, immediately calling a meeting of local people to discuss the plan.
It was decided then that a committee of local people, including government officials and engineers, will oversee the project.
“The project started on March 30. And public participation has been so generous that we have already deepened 20 acres of the lake, while another 25 acres have been cleaned,” he said.
Six JCB excavators and about 60 dumpers have been deployed for the project whose primary objective is to increase the rainwater carrying capacity of the lake.
Ordinary people are contributing to the project with money, labour as well as equipment.
So far Rs.23 lakh have been collected from people – from school children to pensioners, from menial workers and roadside vendors to college teachers.
The government will contribute an amount matching the public contribution.
Seeing the public response, legislators are also chipping in.
Member of Parliament Nagendra Singh has pledged Rs.50 lakh from his MP Local Area Development fund.
“All classes of people are contributing to the project,” Bundela said.
Local journalist Nadimullah said a previous government project to develop and tap Dharam Sagar and two other lakes in the district had failed.
“Rs.21 crore was sanctioned for that project seven years ago out of which Rs.14 crore actually came. They installed intake wells and filter plants in the three lakes and then the work stopped,” he said.
Large amounts of money and use of technology has not stopped Dharam Sagar from drying up.
“That’s the irony of modern, hi-tech age. Dharam Sagar was once a great example of groundwater recharge, connected with more than 50 wells. It never dried up then,” said retired teacher Rajendra Srivastava.
“There was no expensive technology then. Just common sense,” he added.