THERE'S AN AMAZING story coming in from North India, for a change. A Jaipur-based centre has worked out a software that allows users to create an interactive water-map of the village. This means, villagers would be better equipped to cope with drought. Thanks to IT.

This software, Jal-Chitra, was developed by Jaipur's Ajit Foundation, in close collaboration with the Barefoot College of Tilonia. Says Ajit Foundation's Vikram Vyas: "The advent of Personal Computer together with the development and expansion of Internet has provided us with a unique opportunity to bring the tools of scientific modelling and computation to rural development."

One "immediate area" where such tools can make a tangible contribution, he argues, is in the process of draught-proofing the villages lying in the arid and semi-arid regions of the developing world. How is this done?

An estimate of the monthly water demand and the monthly water availability from various sources is the starting point. Then comes the question of allocation of available water. Likewise, a water-budget can be created. Solutions can range from water conservation, to the development of new water sources or water storage systems, where possible. Or even getting in water from external sources.

Villagers need to balance between underground water and rainwater harvesting systems. Of course, we are assuming that the political systems give village communities responsibility and resources for "managing, maintaining, and developing their own water sources".

Once done, this is where the software called Jal-Chitra comes in. It is aimed at helping villagers to take advantage of information and communication technologies to exercise their right to manage their own water sources.

Jal-Chitra basically:

* Allows users to make an interactive water-map of the village.

* Allows the community to keep record of amount of water available from each of the water sources.

* Has a facility for keeping record of water quality testing.

* Facility for keeping record of maintenance work required and the maintenance work that has been done.

* Estimates the water demand for domestic use, for livestock, and for agriculture.

* The agricultural records also suggest the optimal water irrigation required depending on the crop planted and the amount of rainfall.

* Generates the future monthly water budget based on the past records (as more monthly records are kept the corresponding budget become more reliable).

* Informs community as to how much of its annual water need is being met from underground water and the approximate amount of recharging that is taking place.

* Shows the amount of the community's need that is being met through rainwater harvesting systems and how it compares with total potentiality of rainwater harvesting in the given village.

* Incorporates a tool Sim-Tanka to determine the reliability of rainwater harvesting systems with covered storage tank.

Interested in checking out the potential of IT for development? Contact Vikram Vyas, The Ajit Foundation, 396 Vasundhara Colony, Tonk Road, Jaipur 302 018 India Email: visquare@satyam.net.in