They had broken free of the vicious cycle of drought/flood—more water meant the forests were getting more dense, which in turn retained even more water.
…they have built about 20,000 chaals in about 125 villages over the past 19 years
Bharati began talking to the women who were left behind. In the first year, they built a chaal on a monsoonal channel that had dried up. After the next monsoon, it retained water longer, the surrounding soil remained moist, the forest looked healthier. Over the next five years, Bharati’s Doodhatoli Lok Vikas Sansthan built several chaals in Ufrainkhaal and neighbouring villages, improving their design through trial.
They had broken free of the vicious cycle of drought/flood—more water meant the forests were getting more dense, which in turn retained even more water. The big test came during the drought of 2000-01. Forest fires are a regular feature in the pine plantations that pass for government forests in the region—pine kills all undergrowth and its needles pile up into a tinderbox. The fires did not spread to the regenerated oak forests, which have soil moisture and diversity. Yet there was the fear that the fires will engulf them, so the village women who had built the chaals turned out in numbers to prevent fires in government forests. Three women died in these efforts. The fire was controlled.
Complete story at: http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/nation/how-to-make-a-forest