How a 77-YO Labored For a Decade After Retirement to Carry a River Again to Life


On a balmy February midday, 77-year-old Vaijinath Jagannath Ghongade stood on the banks of the Manganga river in Solapur district, Maharashtra. 

“I felt ashamed benefitting from the pension I obtained from the agriculture division however doing nothing in return. Having mirrored for a number of days, I made a decision to tour the stretch of the river on foot and examine its ecosystem,” he shares. 

“For this river, which flows near my village Wadegaon in Sangola taluka, and helps the livelihoods of a whole bunch, was slowly dying,” he provides. 

The huge enterprise of cleansing the 75-km stretch of Manganga river flowing from Sangli to Solapur with public participation was began in 2016. And the person who championed the trigger to convey again the river to its former glory was Ghongade. 

He was honoured with the Jal Prahari Samman in December 2023 by the Ministry of Jal Shakti.

Having a private connection and a deep love for the river, right here’s how this water warrior modified the course of its destiny and efficiently revived it.

Ghongade being given the award at the state-held ceremony.
Ghongade being awarded on the state-held ceremony.

Manganga: The river that feeds 5 districts

The rain-fed and west-flowing Manganga river, referred to as ‘Manavganga’ in Sanskrit, rises within the jap hills of the Satara district and programs via 5 drought-prone talukas. These are specifically Dahiwadi (Man), Atpadi, Sangola, Mangalvedha and Pandharpur, earlier than it lastly joins the Bhima River at Sarkoli. 

These drought-prone districts, falling below the rain shadow area of Sangli, Satara and Solapur, obtain rainfall ranging between 584mm and 762 mm. It often experiences floods too, prefer it did again in August 2019 and October 2021.

The gathered silt in Manganga had rendered it shallow and when the downpour was intense, the river was unable to hold the rainwater additional downstream, inflicting floods.

Ghongade overseeing the shrub removal work being done. Shrubs of morning glory had captured the river's banks, restricting water flow.
Ghongade overseeing the shrub removing work being finished. Shrubs of morning glory had captured the river’s banks, limiting water stream.

“I’ve at all times been fascinated by the river ever since my childhood. However, watching it being mired within the silt and thickets with its banks being taken over by undesirable vegetation, disturbed me quite a bit,” he says. 

Again in February 2011, Ghongade and a gaggle of 11 different likeminded individuals, launched into foot to review the 165-km stretch of the river’s ecosystem and perceive what wanted to be finished with a river whose watershed space was round 4,763 sq km. This group included a horticulturist, a botanist, an irrigation specialist, an educationist, a litterateur, an ex-serviceman, and a farmer. 

“We undertook the journey to review the soil, water high quality, its availability for irrigation, and the cropping patterns adopted by the farmers and so on. Whereas the times have been spent across the river, we slept in panchayat workplaces, temple precincts, colleges, neighborhood halls and even in farmers’ houses at night time,” says Dr Ashok Shinde, a horticulturist and member of the “Chala Nadi La Zanuya” (let’s get to know the river) crew.

Each few kilometres, the crew members took soil and water samples and planted indigenous kinds of timber. In addition they reached out to the villagers dwelling across the river and educated them on its dismal state. In addition they defined their imaginative and prescient and the steps to be taken to revive Manganga.

The results of the 21-day journey was a slim guide titled, “Parikrama Mangangechi” (Circumnavigating Manganga) which highlighted the standing of the river and was bought to high school and faculty libraries, college students, professionals and farmers. 

Ghongade (second from left) and some members of the team of experts and locals who helped revive the Manganga river.
Ghongade (second from left) and a few members of the crew of specialists and locals who helped revive the Manganga river.

Key points to resolve

The crew discovered that the river was ignored by the irrigation division for many years and was now decreased to a sewer. Its riverside was encroached upon and past the preliminary 30 km, there was hardly any tree. Acacia and Babul shrubs had taken over the river beds. 

The 18 Kolhapur-style weirs, that are primarily small dam-like buildings constructed transverse to the stream of a pure stream with a substantial hole between two piers to permit passage to the water stream, had turn into ineffective as a result of layers of silt. 

“The villagers dumped their waste into the river. Because the festive season approached, these dwelling round it might clear up and dump their undesirable belongings into the river,” says Ghongade. “This has been happening for years.”

Ghongade and his crew went on to determine the Manganga Brahmanseva Multipurpose Society in 2014, and with the proceeds from the guide sale of Rs 54,000, they started the preliminary work by involving the locals on the grassroots degree.

Because the phrase unfold {that a} Sangola-based septuagenarian was on a mission to revitalise the Manganga river, farmers, faculty academics, shopkeepers, NGOs, industrialists, sugar barons, charitable organisations, and civil society members at massive, got here ahead.

The state of the river before its rejuvenation.
The state of the river earlier than its rejuvenation.

“Having learn the guide I realised that the duty of revitalising the river couldn’t be finished simply by the shramdan (service) of a handful of villagers. We wanted earth movers to do it, and a number of them,” explains Shriharsha Phene, the secretary of the Mumbai-based charitable basis, Shree Brihad Bhartiya Samaj.

Through the years it took to wash the river, the inspiration donated Rs 1.53 crores. Others, too, joined in with their cheques together with the Sangli-based Sadguru Sri Sri Sakhar Karkhana belief, Naam Basis, together with an area MLA, and a Pune-based industrialist named Sudamrao Bhore, amongst a number of others. 

“I used to be born and raised in Sangola’s Wasudh village,” says the 54-year-old Bhore. “And the way might I not contribute to the duty undertaken by Ghongade sir to revive the river?”

The excavation was usually undertaken throughout the summer time months and it took six years to wash the 75-km lengthy stretch of the river and a complete of 20 lakh cubic metres of silt was faraway from the river mattress.  

“Based on the irrigation division officers, it might have price Rs 9 crore, however we did this work for lower than Rs 3 crores, because of the financial contribution from the neighborhood,” says Ghongade, who braved the summer time warmth to supervise the work, yr after yr, regardless of his superior age.

The Manganga river now, after being restored to its former glory.
The Manganga river now, after being restored to its former glory.

Prosperity greeted the area because the outcomes bore fruit

Following the downpour in August 2021, the weirs began overflowing. Tons of of individuals lined up on the river banks, shouting with pleasure! 

“It was a sight we had not witnessed in so lengthy. We have been solely hoping that we’d have the ability to begin farming,” remembers Vithal Chavan (38), a farmer rising wheat and corn on his two-acre plot.

Revitalising the river led to the extraction of 20 lakh cubic metres of silt, thus bringing again 322 acres of fallow land below cultivation. The delighted farmers carried the silt again to their farm plots.

Navnath Dighe (43), of Wadegaon, is among the many 192 farmers who benefitted from the silt excavated from the river. “I’ll have taken greater than 600 tractor a great deal of silt and deposited it on my three-acre plot the place I develop sugarcane utilizing drip irrigation,” says Dighe. In complete, he owns eight acres of land and grows finger millet, corn, in addition to elevating a pomegranate orchard.

The silt, wealthy in vitamins, has yielded a greater harvest. Bablu Ghongade (48), a sugarcane farmer, informs, “I used to get a yield of 35 tonnes per acre however now it’s round 50 tonnes. It’s all as a result of silt from the river.”

The rejuvenation of the river has led to elevated water-holding capability of the KT weirs, and led to a the within the water degree of 1,800 wells and a pair of,500 borewells dotting the river.

On his subsequent plan of motion, Ghongade says, “We’re at present demanding the removing of the encroachments from the riverbed from the district collector. As soon as eliminated, the river’s width will broaden resulting in a rise in its water storage capability, and floods and droughts might turn into a factor of the previous.”

Edited by Padmashree Pande; All pics courtesy: Hiren Kumar Bose


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