India Water Project


The Problem

The average rainfall in India has remained constant over the past 50 years, yet in the past two decades the ground water tables have fallen dramatically and rivers have dried up.

330 million people in 255 thousand villages of India are short of water – Times of India.
54% of India faces extremely high water stress – The World Resources Institute.
India’s ground water depletion is the worst in the world – NASA.


This project aims to address the acute water crisis in India, a crisis which over the last two decades has caused widespread agrarian distress, broken the back of the rural economy, and rendered countless farmers distraught, leading many into suicide (46 farmers commits suicide every day in India – National Crime Records Bureau.).

The Cause

There are two primary reasons for India’s water crisis.
Disruption of natural hydrological cycle: Underground aquifers are the main source of water for perennial rivers and agriculture during non-monsoon months and nature has its own way of recharging these aquifers thru percolation of rain water. But now this natural process has been significantly disrupted due to extensive deforestation, rampant urbanization, and unplanned development. Today, most of the rain water is either washed away into the sea or lost to evaporation.

Wrong cropping patterns: Water intensive cash crops such as sugarcane and rice are being extensively cultivated in regions that do not receive adequate rain. The additional water for cultivation is drawn from the underground aquifers leading to increasingly falling water tables.

The Solution

A comprehensive solution to India’s water crisis involves addressing both the root causes.

Restoring the natural hydro logical cycle: Restoring the aquifer recharge mechanism by taking the following actions across a river basin

1. Creating artificial deep percolation structures such as recharge and injection well along river streams
2. Enhancing water percolation capacity of river beds by removing silt, and reducing ongoing silt deposition by constructing boulder check dams
3. Planting trees whose roots facilitate the percolation of rainwater to underground aquifers and also help in arresting soil erosion and consequent siltation of river beds

Correcting the cropping patterns: Educating villagers about zero budget organic farming techniques for native sustainable crops that can generate more profits than water intensive cash crops such as rice and sugarcane and convincing them to switch.

Implementation Strategy

Current Indian government structures lack the required ‘integration’ to address the water crisis as each department works in isolation, necessitating a nodal agency that can coordinate between the various ministries of Agriculture, Forestry, Rural Development, Water, and Panchayat Raj to execute on the solution. OVBI has partnered with The Art of Living Foundation that acts as a nodal agency complementing government’s efforts through comprehensive technical planning, community engagement, and fostering grass root leadership.

Technically, the plans are created based on remote sensing, focusing on a River framework, a scientific methodology developed by Dr Lingaraju Yale (a renowned Geologist, retired Director Karnataka Remote Sensing Application Center, part of the National Committee on Integrated Mission for Sustainable Development, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)). On the social front, the community is engaged through multiple trainings and capacity building programs thereby creating ‘Community Leaders’ and ‘Barefoot Technicians’ who act as efficient channels for last mile delivery. As River Rejuvenation projects are highly capital intensive, the Art of Living leverages existing government schemes like MGNREGA and Jal Yukta Maharashtra by providing efficient project management and social audit services.

Every unit of of private sponsorship allows the streamlining of 100 units of Government investment leading to a 100x impact of your funding dollars.

Impact So Far

1. The current geographical coverage spans 18 districts across 3 states (Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu) located within the river basins of Kumudavathi, Manjara, Palar, Naganadhi, Vena and Vedavathi rivers.

2. The current target area spans over 7500 sq kms covering the following districts – Latur, Beed, Osmanabad, Jalna, Pune, Satara, Nashik, Nagpur, Jalgaon in Maharashtra, Bangalore, Ramnagara, Chikmagulur, Chitradurga, Hasan, Chikballapur, Kolar in Karnataka and Vellore, Tiruvanmalai in Tamil Nadu.

Scaling our efforts

1. Over the next three years, existing projects will be scaled up, the largest one in pipeline being the Manjara River Rejuvenation project (Latur, Maharashtra) which is currently in pilot phase. This will be scaled up to cover the entire Manjara basin covering an area of 8000 Sq KM. Further, new projects will be initiated in Bundelkhand in Madhya Pradesh, and suitable regions of Rajasthan.
2. The primary impact of the project will be significant improvements in groundwater levels in the 21,000 Sq KM implementation area (25 districts in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan ), over 65% of which is classified semi-critical, critical or overexploited by GSDA.
3. The improved availability of water will lead to direct socio-economic growth of a population of 7 million, 70% of whom are directly dependent on agriculture.
4. A significant proportion of the project will be executed under MGNREGA, generating 10 million man days of direct rural employment.
5. 3000 Water Volunteers will be trained through capacity building workshops, and sustained engagement under the ambit of the project creating focused grassroots leadership. 100,000 people will be further sensitized through multi-level engagement consisting trainings, meetings and mass media.
6. Multiple successful projects undertaken in partnership with the Government will result in major changes to water policy and current Government structures. The River Rejuvenation projects in Karnataka are already being closely monitored by the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department, Government of India to learn, and replicate similar models elsewhere.

Cost and Time Line

5 years
$ 1 million

Reports and peer reviewed publications

Maharashtra – River Rejuvenation report
Karnataka – Kumudhvathi River detailed Action Plan
Karnataka – Vedavathi River MGNEGRA Report