Amla Ruia, born in Uttar Pradesh, is an Indian social activist and founder of Aakar Charitable Trust, an organization that partners with villages to build check dams that provide water security. She is known for her work in water harvesting and was awarded a Lakshmipat Singhania – IIM, Lucknow National Leadership Award in the category of Community Service and Social Upliftment in 2011.
Around 17 years ago in 1999/2000, when Rajasthan was going through a severe drought, Amla Ruia read about the poor condition of the farmers there. The photographs in the newspapers and the images she saw on television moved her.
It is very common to see dry and deserted farms in Rajasthan, a land known for its scorching summers, parched soil and lack of sufficient water to sustain normal life. However there are some villages where water is no longer a problem, farmers are growing not one but three crops a year, and households are even earning additional income from animal husbandry!
Amla Ruia worked for over 100 villages in Rajasthan by using traditional water harvesting techniques and building check dams. Check dams, also known as khadin, are structures that involve comparatively small masonry constructions and extensive earthen bunds.
This is the story of how one woman made it all possible by engaging the local community and generating an income of Rs. 300 crores per annum for 2 lakh villagers.
“I saw the government providing water tankers to meet the water needs of the villagers. But I thought to myself that this was not a sustainable solution…there must be a more permanent solution that could help the farmers in the long run,” she recalls.
Amla started researching the water troubles of Rajasthan and founded Aakar Charitable Trust to make her thoughts into action.
She started her work by constructing check dams near the villages. Check dams are most effective in hilly terrain where the whole hill range can be used as catchment for the reservoir. There is no disadvantage only have all the advantages of the large dams, such as displacement and rehabilitation of people, huge underutilized dead storage of water, water logging, risk of breach causing extensive damage to life and property, etc. Also they are very cost effective.
Her first project in Mandawar village showed great success and within a year with the help of two check dams constructed the farmers managed to earn as much as Rs. 12 crore .
Today, Aakar Charitable Trust has constructed 200 check dams in 100 villages of Rajasthan, and impacted over 2 lakh people who earn a combined income of Rs. 300 crore per year.