From ripple to a tide – A film by SDTT on its work with local NGOs and communities on diversion-based irrigation

"Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water”Lao Tzu The Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT) has been implementing a programme on diversion-based irrigation (DBI) since early 2009 to promote the development of small scale irrigation through diversion of water from streams. The film “From ripple to a tide” tells multiple stories related to sustainable irrigation systems, from the eyes of one of its team members who has been involved in the programme.
1 Dec 2012
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Part I: From ripple to a tide, a film by SDTT

A diversion based irrigation system is one which diverts a portion of water from a natural stream/water course/river and uses it with or without intermediate storage for the purpose of irrigating crops and for other human ends. Diversion based irrigation systems have been in vogue for possibly decades in regions that have appropriate features.

These are known by different names in different parts of the country: Kul in Himachal Pradesh, Tar Bandh in Mahakoshal, Phad in Maharashtra, Dongs in north Assam, Zebo in Nagaland, Khadins in Rajasthan, Pukhar in Jhalawar areas of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Ahar Pyne in Kaimur plateau and adjacent areas of Jharkhand and South Bihar, etc. Some have been destroyed by an insensitive public administration, some have fallen into disrepair, some have dried up as the hills have become denuded and some have shrunk in size as social issues of managing them have become complex.

The DBI programme of the Trust aims to promote these systems and is being implemented through 21 NGOs in 13 States of the country, the focus being on undulating, hilly and mountainous (UHM) regions that are poorly served by irrigation and are home to the poorest.

 The film begins with an account of how the slippage of the monsoon in 2009 and 2010 in Gaya had not adversely affected the fields in Manpur which continued to get irrigation from the ahar pyne system.  The work of NGOs like Satyapath (Gaya), Gramya Vikas Manch (Nalbari), PRADAN (Gaya), Grameen Sahara (Kamrup Rural) have been chronicled in the film. Father Cyril Tekri of Regional Rural Training Centre, Meghalaya notes that the success of diversion based irrigation schemes is not just about providing irrigation but about livelihoods and dignity to the people. 

Sanjeev Phansalkar of SDTT reasons that “in these (DBI) schemes you do not store water but take a little bit of water from the total that is flowing. This scheme will cost you virtually nothing because you are not stopping any water.”

Many of the partners of SDTT have been able to link diversion based irrigation with government schemes and raise funds from either MNREGA or organisations like North East Development Finance Corporation. In some places, villagers have learnt about new water saving irrigation techniques like the system of rice intensification (SRI).

Tushaar Shah states that there is a need to create local technologies and mechanisms for restoring our groundwater balance. In his opinion, diversion based irrigation systems and small water harvesting systems are much more useful in recharging groundwater and in maintaining the groundwater balance.

According to Deep Joshi, the regions where the DBI programme has been taken up “are at a great disadvantage with respect to both these sources of irrigation: the terrain lacks sites suitable for storage of significant quantities of water and makes transportation of water from rivers or storage sites to the farms difficult and expensive; and there is too little water underground because of the nature of the soils, presence of rocks close to the surface and the fact that rainwater absorbed by soils gets drained out to springs, rivers, floodplains and valleys downstream due to gravity.”

Within these pockets whatever irrigation development takes place is in turn concentrated in relatively flat pockets like valleys and floodplains. “Though potential for large schemes does not exist, these regions do have opportunities - localized and dispersed - to harness water from perennial and semi-perennial streams to cumulatively serve large numbers of very poor people. Due to the terrain such water can be diverted downhill to nearby fields… Most of the projects are in remote villages inhabited by adivasis and some also provide drinking water”, Joshi says.

The film also depicts how sand mining has adversely affected the diversion based irrigation schemes because the river bed becomes too low vis a vis the ahar/canal. 

Part II: From ripple to a tide, a film by SDTT


Part III: From ripple to a tide, a film by SDTT

Part IV: From ripple to a tide, a film by SDTT

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