Irrigation tanks and their traditional local management - A remarakable ancient history of India - Paper presented at the National Seminar on Water and Culture (2007)
Irrigation and traditional managements systems were community led. The recent past has seen sharp decline of both. A road back to the future leads us to the revival of these: discusses this paper

Tanks are rainwater harvesting techniques which capture water during monsoons for later use. Mention of tanks in colonial texts is made and the authors infer from ancient texts like Tamil Purananuru on the importance of tanks and the locations for their construction, as well detailing their geographical spread.

Tanks were being used for irrigation, as also pisciculture. They were also a source of silt for fertilization and construction material, a recharge structure for local groundwater and more.

In the case of irrigation, tanks serve four different functions which are - soil and water conservation, flood control, drought mitigation and environment protection.

On the issue of irrigation rights of tanks, this was largely governed by custom and local practices. Water Mamulnamas, maintained records of  water supply in tanks, the quantity of water available in particular months, the area that could be irrigated etc. The authors also discuss water management techniques in precolonial, colonial times and also after Independence.

The authors conclude with a description of the work done by DHAN Foundation to revitalise tanks, that are in disuse and disrepair. The intervention is community-based and focuses on working with the marginal communities in tank-fed agriculture.

This paper was presented at the National Seminar on Water and Culture organised by Kannada University and Sahayoga in 2007.

Download the paper here:


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