Konkan is a beautiful coastal strip in Maharashtra, between the hills of Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. This place is popular for its lovely people, culture, spices, and fruits—especially mangoes (the sweetest Alphonso mangoes in the world are grown here!). This region tends to receive a heavy rainfall each year and has enjoyed a perennial lush green cover and a divinely fertile soil.
But to the astonishment and the disappointment of the villagers, climate change has wreaked havoc in recent years, drying up wells and reducing the water table to an all-time low. Several organisations are actively trying to find sustainable solutions to the water crisis, coming together to study the water flow pattern during monsoons. They realised that millions of metric tons of water is wasted as rain flows into streams and rivers and then quickly drains off into the sea, hardly penetrating the soil. They theorized that if somehow, this water drainage was slowed down it should improve the water table.
One popular approach, promoted by Paani Foundation in Maharashtra, is to engage the people from the local villages to volunteer—a known as ‘Shram Daan’—to dig pits, trenches and canals along the slopes of the hills, erect small dams on rivulets and streams with stones and mud sacks, and harvest rain water to refill the domestic bore wells. Some villages who have been doing this over the past few years have demonstrated its success, inspiring other villages to adopt this practice, as well.
Mumbai drone pilot and passionate team member of Flying Labs India, Laxman Aroskar,, hails from a village called Ambdos in Malvan Taluka and runs an NGO called DroneAge that actively works on environmental conservation issues. For this year’s World Environment Day, held on June 5th, they tied up with local NGOs and leaders to organise an orientation program for the villagers on the water conservation issues faced by Malvan. This project was supported by Anup Malandkar from Bhramar, Nikhil Methiya from DroneLab, Prashant Soni from Aerial Ads, Anupriya Goyal and Himanshu Tyagi from IIT Delhi and Dr. Ruchi Saxena from India Flying Labs.
This was the first time drones and AI were used in this district for water conservation and this attracted immense support and encouragement, not just from the village government, but also from people living in cities like Mumbai and Pune who celebrated the World Environment Day with technology in Ambdos.
Laxman and his team mapped a few sample locations to conduct aerial survey of natural water sources and the potential places where pits, trenches, canals and check dams could be built. These aerial imagery and videos were presented to the villagers and the local government to explain the concept and propose a detailed water conservation plan. This plan will now be implemented by the volunteers from the village and drone imagery data would be used to monitor the periodic progress and the impact of the project. They will also be training the youth from the village in drone technology as a part of the sustainability plan.
India Flying Labs will be supporting this pilot project and help Laxman and his team for data processing, project management, fundraising, connecting with national and international subject-matter experts, documenting the research findings and impact and publish the project reports.
This project holds a special importance for us as we plan to conduct similar pilots in other villages of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh in association with active local leaders, universities and governments and address the issue of droughts in the near future. With leaders like Laxman at the forefront, we are optimistic about creating a small but lasting impact in the villages that we work for.