JalTara — Art of Living’s Vision for a Water-Rich India

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BENGALURU, India, Feb. 2, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — India is under extreme water stress – especially due to depleted groundwater across its rural communities. This is not due to poor rainfall – India gets plenty of rainwater from annual monsoons. The main reason is that only a small percentage of the annual monsoon rainwater seeps underground to replenish its natural aquifers.

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In fact, 78% of annual monsoon rain just flows into the ocean — and India only stores 6% of annual rainfall in reservoirs. Moreover, groundwater is the main source of agricultural irrigation – further depleting an already scarce resource. Consequently, women have to walk miles to procure water, farmers live in deep financial distress, and major cities such as Chennai are running out of water.

This water crisis can absolutely be solved, but only if trillions of liters of monsoon rain water can be collected & stored in underground aquifers all across India.

JalTara is an initiative in which trillions of liters is stored — not by executing a few large and complex water projects, but very large numbers of tiny, simple water projects.

And this concept is the genesis of the JalTara vision from Art of Living (AOL) – a bold vision to make India a water rich nation.

AOL’s JalTara approach is to dig simple recharge pits (6 feet deep and 4 feet across, filled with rocks and pebbles), at the lowest point in every available acre-plot of land in drought-hit villages all over India — 500 on average in each village.

These recharge pits allow rainwater to bypass the dense, impervious top layers of soil and get a direct pipe to flow below the surface and recharge underground aquifers. In short, large numbers of JalTara recharge pits transform an impervious, concrete-like earth into an absorbent sponge.

Over the last two years, AOL volunteers Dr. Purushottam Wayal and Manu Namboodiri have validated this one-recharge-pit-per-acre approach. They led a small team of JalTara sevaks and executed two separate PoCs across 37 drought-hit villages in Jalna, Maharashtra – digging about 19,000 recharge pits. These projects have significantly improved groundwater resources and brought about significant economic, social and environmental benefits:

  • Water tables have improved YoY (in March) by 14 feet on average
  • Farmer incomes have increased by over 120% on average
  • Crop yields have improved by over 42%
  • Agricultural land usage during Rabi has gone up by 58%
  • Labour needs during Rabi have increased by 88%
  • Crop spoilage due to water logged fields have been virtually eliminated

These benefits have validated both the JalTara one-recharge-pit-per-acre methodology and its value to rural farming communities.

This brings attention back to how AOL plans to solve this groundwater crisis for the whole of India – within a short period of time.

AOL’s JalTara goal is to dig over 50 million such small recharge pits across 100,000 of the most drought-hit villages in India – within five years. It is estimated that, these pits will recharge an additional fifteen to thirty trillion liters of groundwater every year, and thus transform rural India.

About VVKI-Art of Living

The Art of Living is a non-profit, educational and humanitarian organization founded in 1981 by the world-renowned humanitarian and spiritual teacher – Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who has always had a focus on improving the livelihoods of rural farmers – to ensure their economic, health and mental wellbeing. And this starts with enough groundwater – which is the basis for rural communities to thrive.

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