In the years 1972-73 there was wide spread severe draught in whole of Maharashtra. In order to provide employment to the rural population in this situation Government of Maharashtra decided to undertake soil conservation work in rural areas which required lot of labour. Agriculture and Irrigation Departments of the Government were appointed as nodal agencies to execute the programme and they undertook the work of construction of percolation tanks, nalla bunding and contour bunding in Ralegan Siddhi. While the work was executed in Ralegan Siddhi due to apathy of the Government agencies the percolation tank constructed at Ralegan was not constructed taking due care and was leaking and thus its purpose was defeated.
After his retirement from Army in l975 he returned to Ralegan Siddhi and was very much disturbed due to condition prevailing there and started discussing with the villagers their problems. He observed that the water problem -both for drinking and irrigation - was acute and felt that something should be done to overcome this problem. At that time he came to know of one Mr. Vilasrao Salunkhe who was doing soil and water conservation work at Saswad. He visited the work place of Mr. Salunkhe and felt that if similar activity is undertaken at Ralegan Siddhi, the water scarcity problem at Ralegan could be solved. He, therefore, organised villagers meeting (Gram Sabha) to explain to them the work of Mr. Salunkhe and its adoption in Ralegan Siddhi.
All the villagers were impressed by this idea and decided to start similar programme in Ralegan Siddhi. Initially they decided to repair the existing percolation tank which was heavily leaking. The cause of seepage of water was ascertained and work of providing core wall by digging puddle trench up to the level of hard rock was undertaken on upper side of the bund through voluntary labor of villagers.
Satisfactory Completion of the work resulted in retention of water in the tank resulting in recharging of ground water aquifers .This enthused the villagers and they decided to implement the concept of water shed development, ie. ridge to valley approach for soil and water conservation which was hitherto not followed by the Department of Agriculture. Implementation of watershed programme involved lot of expenditure and Mr. Hazare approached the then Director of Soil Conservation and requested his help. He had assured the Director that he and his collegues from village will actively participate in implementation of watershed development programme and will provide labor voluntarily.
The ridge to valley programme involved structures like gully plugging,loose boulder structure, gabian structure, nalla bunding, cement check dams etc. The cost involved in constructing cement check dams was prohibitive and hence Shri Hazare developed modified gabian structure with a core wall which reduced the cost considerably and was as effective as cement check dam. This novel approach is being followed elsewhere also. Similarly on the ridge line where the CCT was not possible, shallow soak pits were dug in order to collect rain water so that through seepage the water would be available to surrounding plantation. This resulted in increase in plant survival and their vigorous growth. This was also a novelty of Ralegan Siddhi programme.
Due to availability of water for irrigation through wells and realizing the importance of water the villagers decided to form cooperative societies well-wise. This resulted in bringing more land under cultivation and developments like double cropping, change of farming system, horticulture plantations, vegetable cultivation, dairy farming etc. could take place. It will not be out of place if it is mentioned that from Ralegan Siddhi for some period onions and vegetables were exported to Gulf countries. All this resulted in substantial increase in per capita income of the farmers. and the villagers through their cooperative efforts created facilities like school, hostel., gymnasiums, credit societies renovation of temple etc. in the village.
The residents of Ralegan Siddhi are still enjoying the benefits of watershed programme though more than 30 years have passed since completion of programme.