Barefoot Geologists 2:
The world beneath their feet.
Geologically, Kutch is one of the newest regions of the Indian Subcontinent.It shook its way up from the seabed rather recently. It continues to shake often and rises up inch by inch and the memory of that is all too recent.
To see how new it is, take a look at Kutch on one of the satellite photos or Google Earth. A large section of Kutch is beautiful white and salty, or there are a nice patterns of white created by flowing water and there are the rectangles of man-made salt pans in the Little Rann.
This also means that the most of rocks and soil here have salt in them. The rainwater that flows over and into them become saline and adds to the difficulty of obtaining useful water .
This is a Geological map of Kutch made by ONGC, The Oil and Natural Gas Commission. Many decades back they went prospecting for liquid gold - the black one in this case. I'm not sure if they found anything useful for themselves but the same mapping can be pretty useful if you are looking for the real liquid gold of the arid lands - water.
If you know the nature of the rocks and soil, you can pin point where you are likely to find sweet water. And if you know where to find them, you can collect rain water or channelise rain water to them and if possible store them for the dry days.
Imagine, taking that valuable data down to the individual village level. You pinpoint the right place, channelise rain water, store them and dig a well.
That's exactly what the Barefoot Geologists do. Armed with detailed maps of each village in the driest taluk of Kutch, they have made them drought proof.
The Barefoot Geologists call their project: Pani Thiye Panjo or Water Becomes You.
And if there are contaminants and salts, they can destroy you.
The Bible, Gita and Quran.
This book contains the hydro-geological maps of every single village in Abdasa Taluk. It also has the topography that allows the villagers, led by Barefoot geologists to build water channels to places where sweet water can be stores and wells can be dug, making the village drought proof.
But maps are useless without tried and tested methods to measure the reality on the ground and underneath it. The Barefoot Geologists are trained to use tools, instruments and tests to what lies beneath.
"Our job is to understand the janamkindli (birth charts) of the local rock formations" says, Velji, one of the Barefoot Geologists.
Who trains them? Who funds them? And what is the effect of their work?
Over the next few posts, I will take you to four villages from different regions of the taluk where the wells have been dug.