Founders of Shashwat Trust Mr. Anand Kapoor and Ms. Kusum Karnik have engaged with tribal communities in the area since 1981, working on issues relating to forest protection, community resource access, and economic development. Between 1995 and 2000, Mr. Kapoor worked on the rehabilitation of 152 villages displaced by the Bargi Dam near Jabalpur, where he was involved in the development of a small-scale fishing project, among other programs. When the Dimbhe dam project had a similarly ruinous impact on nearby communities, the architects of Shashwat saw an opportunity to develop a similar project on the banks of the Ghod River.
Shashwat was officially registered as an organization in 1996 and has operated in its current form since 1999. Shashwat is a grassroots initiative that was developed in response to a range of challenges faced by indigenous and tribal communities in the Pune district of India’s Maharashtra state. initiative that was developed in response to the displacement of Mahadeo Koli , Thakar and Katkari tribal communities by the construction of the Dimbhe dam, which submerged 11 villages and destroyed cropland in another 13. The organization helps local communities develop small-scale fishing activities in the dam reservoir and improve agricultural production on the remaining cultivatable land, much of which is on steep slopes. The dam reservoir has been stocked with fish and the local population is supported to obtain fishing leases, boats, and nets. Fish size and abundance have increased, as have local incomes. Tribal farmers have been supported to cultivate small paddy terraces on steep slopes in the local catchment area. The organization also supports local farmers with land tenure securitization, through securing official ownership documents. Other Shashwat activities include education and healthcare programmes focused on women and children.