June 14, 2004 (ENS): Life in India's half-million
villages can be an uphill struggle for the bare necessities,
but Hiware Bazar in the federal state of Maharashtra
By taking green ideas to the grassroots, this village
of 1,300 people located 17 kilometers (10 miles) from
Ahmednagar town in western India, is becoming a vital
inspiration in the battle against rural poverty, local
The village has imposed a ban on grazing and on felling
trees, and has undertaken initiatives to conserve water.
"We've had visitors from some 72 countries come
and visit our village," says a proud Popat Pawar,
the elected village headman.
"I've travelled to about 5,000 villages across
India, but have seen none like Hiware Bazar," says
Kumar Kalanand Mani, a social campaigner based here
in this former Portuguese colony of Goa, which Pawar
was visiting in order to share his message with Goa
village officials. "It is neat and clean, there
are no mosquitoes."
Explaining his success story, Popat said the village
has managed to beat back drought and fight drinking
In Hiware Bazar, they have implemented a drip-irrigation
system throughout the village to conserve water and
increase food production, and have avoided water-guzzling
crops like sugar-cane and bananas.
Soil and water conservation treatments - from contour
blocking of rainwater, to afforestation, to trenching
on private land, to building earthen structures and
percolation tanks - all have played an important role.
"While parts of coastal India [like Goa] which
get 100 inches of rainfall each year don't have water
to drink, we manage with just 12 to 15 inches of annual
rainfall," says Pawar.
Together with the green agenda, the reformers in Hiware
Bazar have also implemented a program for social change,
which involved banning liquor, family planning, and
voluntary labor - called shramadan in India - to improve
Postive results are being reported from the field -
the out-migration of villagers to nearby urban areas
has been arrested; there is now an influx of families
seeking better water, health and economic conditions.
For Pawar, the young man who changed the image of the
high-crime village, prone to infighting that was Hiware
Bazar prior to 1989, there has been a positive fallout
too, personally. He has been elected the village head
continuously since 1989 without opposition.
"The ban on grazing increased the production of
grass from 200 tons in 1994-95 to more than 5,000 tonnes
in 2001-2002," says Pawar. "Likewise, the
ban on felling trees has increased the biomass by 900,000
trees. Banning liquor has increased the efficiency of
Villagers in Hiware Bazar also decided at their local
council meetings to ban the sale of village land to
"outsiders," and make HIV/AIDS testing compulsory
Pawar says that their experience shows it is easier
to carry on such work without an influx of big money.
Today, Hiware Bazar is the winner of the Ideal Village
status award presented by the government of Maharashtra,
which Mani says demonstrates a practical success based
on the ideals of the Indian icon Mahatma Gandhi.
"For many years, people asked us, 'Where is Gandhi's
village?' and we had no answer," said Mani, a prominent
Gandhian campaigner himself. "But this villages
shows that Gandhism is not just a fine utopian concept."
"Ours is an ideal village for the whole of India,
and its 568,000 gram panchayats [local village councils],"
Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All Rights Reserved.