K S Gopal, 64, who runs an NGO called SWAR - System of Water for Agriculture Rejuvenation - has come out with a unique farm watering system. "It is not surface-centric as the idea here is not to just wet the surface and expose it to evaporation but to have a system that takes water directly to the roots of a tree/ plant, provide calibrated moisture to the soil and create an ecosystem for the microbes to multiply and also provide stable access to water in regions prone to water table fluctuations." He adds: "Our effort is ensure ration water but also ensure adult fruit bearing trees, that tend to die are saved and get adequate water."
What is different about his model, he says, is it uses a third of the water used in drip irrigation. The technology consists of low-pressure drip irrigation components like overhead tanks and drip lines, but is extended with adapted and permeable clay pots. Pots are placed at the root zone and connected to drip lines. Water oozes out of the pots and wets the soil and then 'sweats' to maintain a favourable soil moisture condition. The materials used in this technology are basic like clay pots, water pipes, water tank, drippers to regulate the flow and insulation material so that roots do not get into the pot.
His goal, he says, is to provide to farmers a system that can help effective rain water harvesting that consumes less water than even drip irrigation, but is effective and saves trees. Gopal, a management graduate who has taught marketing at the Administrative Staff College of India has also been a scholar in residence at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, where he began developing technology with farmers and has been working on this for several years and on this system for the last three years.
Today, he has started getting orders for the system. He has so far got from the Andhra Pradesh government and is in talks with the National Highway Authority of India. He has also been recognised abroad for his technology and last year got half a million dollar funding at the 2015 Global Innovation contest titled "Securing Water For Food" sponsored by USAID, SIDA and the government of the Netherlands offering a "grant challenge for development".