Ambuja Cement Foundation, India: Dykes - a simple innovation to solve water problems.

Project Description

Rajasthan, an arid state in India, has been known for its water scarcity. The state has a few seasonal rivers that are the lifelines for the rural population. Water from these rivers and the wells is used for irrigation purposes as well as for household consumption. Over the years these rivers have steadily become silted. As a result, they have become narrow, are unable to carry optimal quantities of water and have horizontal run-offs. Another consequence of this narrowing of rivers is that the amount of water that percolates into the ground also reduces, thus lowering the ground water level over time.


The Ambuja Cement Foundation team has been working extensively on the issue of developing water resources in order to deriving maximum benefits from the monsoons. Several innovative methods need to be applied to maximise collection, storage and percolation of water, to increase the water table.


Ambuja Cement Foundation focuses on water resource management and its adaptation in agro- based livelihood programmes. Traditional forms of water conservation like khadins and bunds are promoted, ponds are de-silted, deepened and revived, and percolation wells and dykes are constructed to enrich the water table. Dykes are technically sound and cost effective and have direct implications on the water levels. Two deep vertical cuts are made at an appropriate point in the river bed. A thick polythene sheet is tied across each and the resulting vertical cavities are filled with the silt removed from the river. At the time of monsoon, the dykes direct water to flow horizontally across the land. This spread of water instantly increased the water table. Farmers discovered that the level of water in their wells went up immediately.

Farmers are now adopting better irrigation methods, plant low-water intensive crops and drought- tolerant plants. These activities have been extended to more farm lands, and are steadily rejuvenating land and save water resources in the region.


With the construction of the dykes, not only did the water level increase from 3.4 metres to 7.6 metres after construction, but the farmers also had water stored for a longer period of time during the year. Thus they were able to grow a wider range of crops like mustard, wheat, jeera, onion, eggplant, tomatoes etc. The four dykes constructed in 2007 have replenished 72 wells during the year and have benefited 192 farmers. In 2010/11, more dykes were built in the river Lilari, as well as 80 wells in the villages of Kesherpura, Patan, Rampura and Dayalpura were replenished, benefiting 1,850 farmers. Additionally, 22 ponds were deepened in 18 villages in 2010/11, increasing their water storage capacity by 206’996 m3. In most cases, villagers have contributed more than 60% of the costs.

Update: September 2011