‘Chauka‘ literally means ‘rectangle’. Chauka systems comprise of rectangular enclosures surrounded on three sides by earthen bunds or embankments, with a further network of shallow, square depressions dug into the bed of the enclosures which retain and promote the percolation of rainwater.
Collectively, the low-height bunds work together like sponges, collecting the erratic, unpredictable rains and helping them meander down the natural, gentle slope of the land through cascades of connected chauka. Each individual chauka cell holds water do a depth of no more than 23 centimetres, as a deeper water would drown the roots of the grasses.
During rainfall, the water moves gradually from one chauka to another, allowing more time for the soil to become moist and the water to seep into the ground. In time, the land around the systems will be rejuvenated.
At WaterHarvest, we work with a partner organisation called GVNML to construct chauka systems in the Sambhar Salt Lake region of India.