In the Banni grassland of Kutch a common sight in the village outskirt is a group of thorny branches of Prosopis juliflora enclosing a virda – a traditional water harvesting system, being practiced for centuries. The branches are intended to ward off animals.
When we look at the hole of a virda at the first glance we are disappointed with its small size. Then a woman begins her work – first scooping out the mud and the top layers. Slowly and patiently, she removes the layer of white scum. After about 15 min, clear water begins to appear. She fills water in two tiny metal bowls and then waits until the water from the earth tickle out again. Then she continues filling her water pot. This carries on for about another 10 min. By then the water is crystal clear and tastes good too.
This shows that the local villagers know how to distinguish between sweet and saline spots on the riverbed while digging the hole. Villagers opt for virda water over the tanker or even government dug wells. It is sweet and straight from the earth.
According to Ferrokhi, who has studied virdas in Banni regions write –
Even though these systems look precarious and causal in the eyes of modern technologists, they have been perfectly sustainable for centuries. The reason for this is that they are compatible with local lifestyles, local institutional patterns and local social systems. Traditional rainwater harvesting methods...represent a fund of solid experience gained through generations of observations, trials and errors concerning soils, plants, animals, groundwater movements, run-off flow pattern and climate.