The people of Bichhri , a village in Udaipur district of Rajasthan, have taken on themselves the challenging task of restoring their contaminated land and water. Fed up of the government's inability to do the same, the Jan Jagaran Vikas Samiti, a representative body of the villagers is all set to adopt the techniques of traditional rainwater harvesting to recharge and renew the water resources in the area ( Down To Earth , Vol 4, No 28).

"There is no other alternative but to use traditional methods of water harvesting, in order to bring respite in our lives,' says Mannaram Dangi, the samiti's convener. He is planning to organise a workshop on rainwater harvesting in the end of August, 2000. To do so, he has seeked the co-operation of the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation.

The contamination was caused by the effluents released by a number of factories which used to manufacture H-acid, a highly toxic and carcinogenic chemical. Large quantities of chemical effluents from these factories had seeped down into the aquifer, contaminating at least 90 wells and most of the soil in the area, in just four months.

The geomagnetic and geophysical survey as well as the drilling of monitoring wells done by Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in collaboration with SENES, a Canada-based firm, reveals that the groundwater is contaminated at a depth of 200 metres, even after 10 years of the closure of the H-acid factories. Scientific studies on the soil quality reveal that the contamination has spread with time. NEERI is planning to bring soil from other areas to dilute the contaminated soils of Bichhri. However, the cost-effectiveness of the entire programme is still under speculation.