While looking at the ancient times we can learn a lot from there. One such thing that needs to learnt from ancient Mauryan times is their water harvesting system. One enterprising person in the Magadh division, which comprises of 10 districts in south-central Bihar, found a way to lessen the acute water crisis afflicting the region by adopting irrigation and water conservation system dating back to the Mauryan empire which ruled vast swathes of North India approximately 2000 years ago.
Pathak extensively researched ancient documents and scriptures to discover long-ignored and dilapidated aqueducts and water reservoirs in the region that once sustained one of India’s greatest ancient empires. Once a grain bowl, known as Jal Durg modern-day Magadh was suffering from acute water shortage because of exploitative modern agriculture practices that severely depleted the groundwater, erratic rainfall, insufficient water canals and an inability to acknowledge long abandoned traditional reservoirs.
Farmers left the field in search of employment opportunities in the city and the water crisis compelled residents in well-off urban localities to sell their land at extremely low prices. In a bid to tackle the region’s woes, the Bihar government had promised to construct a 100km canal from the Ganga, but the project failed to materialise, leaving local citizens in the lurch. The MJJ’s initial attempt at seeking local volunteers and ensuring community participation fell on deaf ears. The usual refrain among locals was that if the government had failed to fix the water crisis problem, what can ordinary citizens do. Nonetheless, Pathak, his scholar-wife Pramila, and trader Prabhat Pandey worked extensively with local communities in the region. With the help of these locals, they crowd-funded a project that sought to revive abandoned ahars, a 125-km Jamune Dasain pyne and 159-km Barki canal carrying water from the Falgu river (a tributary of the Ganga).
In a region with a well-entrenched local mafia which has a significant stake in government projects, the MJJ braved the odds and brought water to the areas.
As per the Hindustan Times, nearly 150 villages along the Jamune-Dasain pyne and around 250 villages along the Barki canal are now in a position to irrigate their fields during the Kharif and Rabi season. Farmers are returning to the land. In Gaya itself, the new irrigation and water conservation pyne-ahar system aids farmers in the process of growing 150,000 hectares of paddy, 100,000 hectares of wheat and approximately 30,000 hectares of pulses and oilseeds.