Rotary Club of Toowoomba South Inc.

Lonand Project - India

Water Lifting Project

Below is an address given by Past President Norm Jenner to the Rotary Club of Toowoomba South in May 2011 outlining the extensive history of the Water Lifting project which he initiated in Lonand India as incoming Club President in 1991

Address by PP Norm Jenner

In 1991 when I was the incoming Club President for 1991/92, Past-President Philly Karani (who later became a District Governor) from the Rotary Club of Poona Down-Town in the Indian City of Pune, south-west of Bombay led a G.S.E. team from District 3130 to our District. Philly and I became very good friends and I asked Philly if he knew of a small Village Core project in his District that our Club might consider.

PP Philly suggested a proposed water-lifting project by the Rotary Club of Lonand that needed support. Lonand is situated about 75 ks southeast of Pune on the eastern side of the western coastal ranges and is thus in a rain shadow area. The high tropical rainfalls of 1000mm along the coastal belt drop to 50mm and below around Lonand.

Isabelle and I travelled to Pune in late 1992 and we joined with PP Philly and his wife Yasmin on a visit to Lonand. We attended a Lonand club meeting prior to the members taking us all on a tour of the rather arid proposed project site.

Isabelle and Norm Jenner

Not much growing

Nothing much was growing in this area in contrast to the more prosperous areas where irrigation was available from a canal that runs from a lake fed from the coastal mountains Here we saw sugar cane about 9’ high and thriving orchards of pomegranates. The project area was 5 ks from the canal and the finance needed to bring the water was well out of the reach of the farming community. The Lonand Club had received engineering advice that US$40,000. would be needed to lift the water 88 metres in height over the 5ks from the canal.The local Dept of Primary Industries had provided a publication showing that the normal income from the local dry-land farms was at that time around A$40.00 per month per farmer. The water tables in those dry areas were mostly below 10 m so that most wells were often unusable. Since 1967 various irrigation schemes had been initiated along the canal. Within 2 years of receiving irrigation, water tables had risen to above 2 m from the surface and average monthly incomes had risen to A$110.00 to A$165.00 per month. In the following years their incomes continued to rise steadily.

Other positive benefits of these irrigation schemes included farming families being able to live together as a family unit rather than having to separate to find some work. They were now able to purchase more consumer goods from the village shops. Best of all they could now afford to send all their children to primary school (not just the boys) and eventually send them all on to higher education.

The Proposal

The proposal was that Toowoomba South and Lonand’s Rotary District each provide US$10,000 and we apply to Rotary Foundation for the balance of US$20,000. The Maharashtra State Minister for Agriculture had agreed that providing this money became available, the State would provide ongoing maintenance funds for the Farmers’ Cooperative.

In January 1993, I submitted the proposal to the Toowoomba South Board and they agreed to provide the US$10,000 which at the time equated to $14,600 Aus. The joint proposal from the 2 clubs was then submitted to Rotary Foundation for a matching Grant. The project met with their approval for a starting date of February 1994.

Late in 1993 Isabelle and I again visited Lonand and all seemed in order to commence the project. Once again we attended their club meeting and we were quite overcome when a local farmer rode up to the clubhouse on his bike. He was dressed in his spotless white Punjabi suit complete with his white vee cap. He presented each of us with a single rose and humbly thanked us in Marathi for coming from the other side of the world to help bring water to his community.

Over the ensuing years whenever completion looked to be just too hard we would think of this farmer who came to see us dressed in his one good set of clothes. We knew he would be waiting and hoping that one day water would come to his farm.

Back in February 1994 when all was ready to start with the project, the Maharashtra State Government lost office and the new Minister for Agriculture would not endorse the previous Minister’s arrangements for the Farmers’ Co-operative Society to receive ongoing funding from the State Agricultural Bank. The new Minister’s policy was to fund individuals not groups. This threw the whole project into limbo as the Cooperative had already let out the tender for digging the trenches and had advanced around A$11,000.for hiring the necessary machinery. Subsequently, litigation was necessary to retrieve these funds.

I traveled to Lonand in 1994 and again in 1995 but the financial negotiations continued with little result. To reinvigorate the proposal we arranged with Philly (now District Governor Philly) for Isabelle and me to bring a Rotary group to Lonand to officially launch the project.

Tour of India

So in January 1996 we led a group of 26 Rotarians and Rotary Ladies from Toowoomba South and other clubs in our District on a 3-week tour of India. Apart from the tourist highlights of The Taj-Mahal etc, the highlight of the trip was participating in a Bhumi-Puja on the project site at Lonand. The Bhumi-Puja ceremony amid a gathering of the farming community included a Priest blessing the soil that would be disturbed by the project. There was much speech making and later a sumptuous luncheon provided by the Rotary ladies back in the village. We returned to Pune and were home-hosted by the Pune Down Town club members for several days. We were also Official guests at District Governor Philly’s DGs Conference. Our 26 members entered the Conference hall to a standing ovation. It is quite rare for such a large group of overseas Rotarians to attend a DGs Conference. Through 1996 the project still did not seem to progress. Every so often I would ring the then President Rajeev to see how things were going. On all but one occasion a servant girl who did not understand English much less Australian would answer the phone. All this was very frustrating for Philly, who was also regularly contacting the club, and of course for all of us at Toowoomba South.

Although we often traveled to India most years, I could not afford to keep making the internal flights (which are very expensive for foreigners) to keep checking on the project.

To cap it all off I was receiving strongly worded letters from Rotary Foundation requesting that I expedite my final report on the completed project. I had no idea if the project had even started.

To asses the current situation Isabelle and I called in at Pune in March 1998 en route to a trip to the UK. I held a special meeting at PDG Philly’s home with the Lonand Board and the incoming District Governor Madhav Borate. The Lonand Club said that they could not overcome bureaucratic red tape and suggested the project should be called off and the money returned. I pointed out that this was not an option as their Rupee had depreciated during the intervening years by nearly 40%, from 18 to the A$ to 25 to the A$ thus increasing the original advance by around Rs420,000/-. However they still set a deadline of May 1999 for a commencement.

The project was not called off but it only proceeded very slowly over the following 2 ½ years. Early in 2003 PDG Philly advised that he thought the completion could be imminent and in May 2003 I received an email from the Lonand Club President. Our President Paul Asprey had great pleasure in reading the e-mail in Indian English to the Club.

Good News



Our matching grand project is completed. Due to this project (WATER IRRIGATION) are developed multiple crops, which are beneficial to farmers who are registered under this project. These farmers had taken one crop also.

You cannot believe, but here is not absolutely rain since three years. Many farmers are leaved villages and farms. Here in Lonand, two government camps had formed for UNwater farmers and there caws, buffaloes, and goats, etc. Here is big starvation and scarcity problem.

We are extremely sorry for the late reply. We know this project became very stretch because government policies and permissions, farmers and engineers cooperation.

After this entire project is absolutely completed. We all Lonand Rotarians and community are proud about project No. 4060.Final reports, audited accounts from certify auditor, and bills are completed. I am sending all these documents in 15 days or a month.

I got reference from P.D.G. Rtn. Dr. Philly Karani. Just you will land in Pune on 20th Nov. Keep free one day (21st Nov. or 22nd Nov.) for Lonand project to see the water project No. 4060.

This is our hearty request and my personal also. I am waiting your reply.


Sincerely yours,

Rtn. Dr. Rajan Pandit.

President Rotary club of Lonand.

Red Tape Overcome

It appears that The State Agricultural Bank had come good with sufficient funds to complete the project after all the bureaucratic red tape had been overcome. The farmers in the scheme were now receiving water every 9 days.

Isabelle and I duly arrived in Pune in November 2003 and PDG Philly and I travelled to Lonand on Saturday 22nd to see water gushing out of a 6” pipe alongside metre high corn crops growing on the same arid land that we had visited in far off 1992. Another significant sight was a 20 bay Dairy shed housing a herd of magnificent purebred Murrah dairy cattle and their calves yielding 220 litres of milk per day. It was all a great sight. Irrigation and drinking water had been lifted 88m over a distance of 5 kms from the canal to this very arid farming area. Two 22hp submersible pumps were drawing 48 litres of water per second and, in three stages, were delivering this invaluable asset to an area with the dubious distinction of being in a rain shadow from the coastal mountains.2nd Tour of India

2nd Tour of India

In November 2004 Isabelle and I led a group of Toowoomba South Club and other Rotary club members and friends on another Indian tour that included a rather emotional final visit to the Lonand Rotary club and the now thriving Irrigation Project.

This is an extract from my final report. “Rotary Club President Dr Vijay and most of the 24 club members greeted us in Lonand. We were taken out to one of the irrigation sites and the contrast between the surrounding dry barren countryside and the irrigated cropping land was apparent to all in our party. Here we met the man in charge of water distribution, a retired police officer. He was a very friendly chap who took pride in escorting us to some nearby small farms of one or two acres.

The crops were mainly rice, maize and vegetables all thriving on the abundance of water and the farmers kept shaking our hands with their only 2 words of English - “thank you”.

The farming families now had abundant drinking and irrigation water for the first time ever. The effect on the farming families benefiting from the project had to be seen and heard to be believed.

Dedication Ceremony

During the colourful dedication ceremony the Project Chairman translated the many comments for us. Most seemed to commence with “for the first time in our lives” and included:- “We will now receive water every 9 days instead of in small amounts occasionally through the year. “We can now grow adequate crops to supply the Pune markets (one of the largest in India) and have ample left over to feed our livestock and ourselves.” “We can now work for ourselves instead of for other larger farmers.” The crowd pushed a farmer’s wife dressed in a beautiful turquoise sari (front row 4th from left) forward to say something. This lady said “During all my married life I have not been able to grow vegetables for our children and I could not afford to buy them, but now we have abundance.”

As the ceremony came to a close, a tall farmer came forward (2nd from the left) and said in his own language “You people must be from the Gods for only they could bring all this water to our land after 1000s of years of nothing.

Looking at the growing crops of corn, the brand new cement dairy shed and most of all, the looks of gratitude on the faces of the farming families, we were satisfied that although this project had been a long haul, it had been worth it and matching Grant 4060 was now as complete as could be achieved.