Dredging rivers for sand is a very lucrative business in the rural areas. This business is an organized through cartels and hence is controlled by the most powerful people in the rural sector.
Women take lead in protecting the environment
Tanishka Foundation in Birolay, Taluka Nandgaon, District Nashik
Dredging rivers for sand is a very lucrative business in the rural areas. This business is an organized through cartels and hence is controlled by the most powerful people in the rural sector. These people are often thugs and illegal businessmen who steam roll their weight into dominating sand dredging at various sections of the rivers in different rural areas. The process of dredging also leads to a lot of environmental hazards and Birolay village was facing the perils of this business. The village was situated on the banks of such rivers rely on the river ecosystem to maintain water levels and provide water for basic human needs including and most importantly, agriculture.
Women of the Tanishka Foundation in Birolay were deeply concerned because of the continuous dredging which was destroying the eco system. Village were well aware of the water related issues facing the livelihood option of the village. As agriculture is the primary livelihood option in this village the women realised that agricultural output was being affected and was also ruining the water quality and in turn affecting agricultural productivity.
The members of the Tanishka Foundation in the village decided to act on the issue and took the bold step of opposing the sand dredging and directly confronted the sand cartel. The women had to face a lot of opposition with the goons and the mafias and was a very challenging and daunting task which even the men in the village had failed to accomplish. By going ahead and voicing their opinion in the local village council popularly known as Panchayat (which consists of 7 members of which 4 members are women, all of them being Tanishka Members), they had a meeting where they mobilized the public participation and support for opposing this criminal and environmentally unsustainable practice. Two of the Tanishka members were also part of the Panchayat office bearers. The forum women were able to mobilise the villagers to raise voice against the sand mafias. This required the entire village to feel empowered to take on the sand cartel and at the same time take responsibility for improving the agricultural output.
The women fought this issue, gathered support and made the impossible possible.
Today through proper advocacy of the issue, sensitization of the local population and open opposition to the cartel, they have stopped the sand traders from coming into their village for dredging and have secured the river bank to its ecological and environmental safety.
The state government also supported the forum by appointing a rural development officer to look into the issue and who stood by them through this entire journey. In addition to that, the official also made future plans with this forum to create bunds and store water in order to bring back the past glory of the village.
As a result of this, today, the village is seeing a reverse trend in outward migration and has successfully reduced crime and preserved the environment.
The act of opposing the cartel in a peaceful manner and getting the desired result caught the notice of the State government which conferred an award for ‘Peaceful Conflict Resolution’ to the Tanishka group.