Recently, AFPRO had the opportunity to lend technical assistance to a self-generated effort of villagers in the Nalanda district in Bihar. The district is characterized by a flat topography, criss-crossed by rivers, pynes (high-level canals) and reservoirs. The most important of the rivers is the Paimar, the ‘Sada Neera’ or the ‘perennial river’. The river is the main feeding source for a wide network of canals and pynes including the Kolhuan pyne that used to irrigate 80-85 villages of Nalanda and Islampur regions in British times. By the end of the Zamindari system, landlords registered submergence lands surrounding the pyne in their own names. This and the lack of timely maintenance made the Kolhuan pyne fade into the background for the next five decades. Shrinking sources of irrigation made the surrounding villagers take a fresh look at the pyne.
A group of youth started a relentless campaign among the villages for a revival. Slowly the movement gathered momentum, and people from all sections irrespective of caste and creed joined them. The community organized themselves into a ‘Kolhua Sangharsh Samiti’ (The Kolhua Endeavour Committee). Since the new canal alignment was falling along a different route, the Samiti decided to buy the lands falling along the canal line. About 3, 10,578 rupees were collected from the farmers whose lands were falling in the command area. The money was used to buy 1.64 acres, and the rest registered in the names of the 160 members of the Samiti (2 from each of the 80 villages). For excavation work, they approached a locally active voluntary organization, the Lok Swarajya Sangh, who in turn approached FORRAD, New Delhi, for assistance. AFPRO planned the 7-kilometer long excavation in two phases, of which Phase One is now complete. The mouth of the canal has been opened to bring the river water in, and 35 villages at the mouth of the village have grown their Kharif crop with Paimar water. At the end of the project, when the whole canal would be de-silted, all 80 villages will get enough water to save both their Rabi and Kharif crops from droughts.