Beating the drought

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Part I: Untapped data

Four consecutive years of drought have brought home a lesson that the people of Hamirpur district and its neighbouring districts in Himachal Pradesh have learnt well. These areas had started receiving piped water supply from the government and gave up on their traditional water harvesting structures. In Hamirpur, these structures are called khatris. The khatris are handmade caves constructed at places with hard rocks capable of storing water. When the people of Hamirpur realised that piped water is at best unreliable, they came together to revive the khatris. The government also chipped in. Today, these structures supply enough water to help Hamirpur tide through droughts.

There are two types of khatris in Hamirpur. In the first type, rainwater is collected from the roof through small structures of tin or pipe. This water is used for washing purposes and to bathe cattle. In the other type, water collects in the khatris through seepage, and this water is used for drinking. These khatris are properly washed and chlorinated before monsoon.

Chandra Shekhar Sharma, journalist from Hamirpur, says, "The Himachal Pradesh government has invested around Rs 250