- Around a decade ago, in Darbhanga city of the Mithilanchal region of Bihar, Narayan Choudhary started the Talab Bachao Abhiyan, a campaign to save the heritage and wealth of the region – its ponds.
- Over the years Choudhary and his supporters have mobilised communities to be aware regarding encroachment and pollution of their local ponds and push the government to take action on protecting and reviving the ponds.
- Mithilanchal in Bihar is a fertile region with historically, an abundance of water. But recent situations of water shortage and depletion of groundwater level have been concerning and pushed people to take action to protect their water resources.
- This year, despite a slow start due to the pandemic, Choudhary’s campaign aims to go beyond ponds and focus on saving all wetlands.
Almost a decade ago, when Narayanji Choudhary first decided to work to save ponds, by creating awareness in his home region of north Bihar, he didn’t think that one day, it will be his passion. At that time, as he witnessed handpumps going dry and ponds disappearing, Choudhary was pained but also driven to study the causes. He spoke to local experts and residents who informed him that illegal encroachment by the powerful land mafia in the region was significantly contributing to the disappearance of ponds. In Darbhanga city, the headquarters of Darbhanga district and the cultural capital of Mithilanchal region, where Choudhary currently lives, he started his campaign to save ponds, the Talab Bachao Abhiyan (TBA).
The initiative began with generating awareness and mobilising local people from all walks of life to join hands to save the lifeline of the fertile but flood prone region. Over the years, Choudhary led several sit-in protests (dharna), signature campaigns, poster exhibitions during popular festivals like Durga Puja and Chhath, protest marches and organised meetings with students and party leaders with the goal of saving ponds.
Today, the local community of Darbhanga is aware and motivated and people from different backgrounds, including a retired DRDO scientist, reputed doctors, engineers, university teachers have all joined the initiative to protect water bodies for natural water harvesting and recharging the ground water level.
People in urban as well as in rural areas of Darbhanga district have joined in peaceful protests against encroachment of water bodies and are working to revive them. “Now, people from villages and towns approach me regularly seeking help and information about how to save water bodies,” Choudhary, now in his late 50s, said.
Ponds, locally known as talab or pokhar, the common water bodies in water-rich Mithilanchal, are fast disappearing because of encroachment for constructing buildings. Even as climate change poses a threat of a water crisis, the importance of these natural…