I chose to answer ‘no’, for several reasons and variations of these would assume significance for you too. It’s an year since the property was bought and no one has stayed for more than a night or so on the property, let alone during the North East monsoon season around October. All I had to go by were the ruts scoured by floods and local talk. People who already consider me foolish for grappling with this abandoned land respond to my proposals with an amused nod and say: “Just be here when it rains this year and you will know what you are unto. There will be sheets of water roaring down the hills in the west and you can’t even stand still in the mud slip.”
I have no reason or daring to disbelieve them, having aborted an attempt to walk across the land one day during last monsoons. Each land holding has a response pattern of its own and this can be known only by actual observation during and after rains. It is wiser to build a number of smaller ponds over the years as you gain better familiarity with the land. That’s how I came to decide on a pilot tank about a fifth of an acre, almost encircling the wind-pump.
Having the money to do a large tank, all in one go can in fact be ruinous as targets-driven government engineers routinely demonstrate. Often, there is much synergy between being a little broke and being successful. Smaller tanks over the years make them affordable assets which have lasting value.
Ideally, if rain water did not run off at all but patiently flowed around looking for vacant places on the land and settled everywhere, land restoration would require no human intervention. A number of distributed ponds would be in the direction of this ideal. In addition to ponds, if contour trenching and barriers to impede water run off were also engineered in, regeneration will take care of itself. Creating a number of smaller ponds over the years would give us the pauses for reflection and the flexibility to design a good integrated system. At pointReturn, the intent of design is to make the overflow from the pilot tank to join the present, accustomed run-off channel. Next year, I hope to intercept this channel to fill a pond at a lower elevation and so on forward, over the years. Eventually, there would be an acre of pond area.
A little considered aspect of pond digging, is how you would dispose off the huge volume of earth that would be excavated. A worthwhile pond is about 6 feet deep. The top soil should be scooped off and kept aside; as it is usually full of living organisms, it can be added to fields growing crops and vegetables. Even after that the quantity to be excavated is still a huge volume. Depending on the quality there could be many uses for this soil: brick making, road laying, building construction with raw earth, reclaiming unwanted ditches or for creating elevated areas. Whatever the use, it’s best to plan ahead with reasonably accurate numbers allocated for various destinations. The importance of this will become apparent when a backhoe is lifting at the rate of 100 cubic feet every ten minutes and loading it on trailers. The trailers need to know where precisely to dump their burden.