In 1881, there was one tank every 15 square miles in the then state of Karnataka. These tanks irrigated more than 7 lakh acres of land. Tanks were the major source of irrigation and the system was completely managed by beneficiaries, their construction considered a meritorious deed. Their neglect began under the British rule, and continues till the present day ‘big dam’ commitment.
With major and medium dams proving to be a big financial loss, and with the ongoing protests throughout the country, a new thought process that tanks can be alternative sources of irrigation is evolving.
Can the tanks of Karnataka be rehabilitated and what would be the economics of attempting to do this? This in-depth study takes a look at the affected tank system, whose proportion of area under it has reduced from 46% in 1954-56 to a mere 19.71% in 1979-80.