Two ancient irrigation systems of India - Paper presented at the National Seminar on Water and Culture (2007)

This paper presents two different types of irrigation systems used in ancient India. Both are based on the overflow system of irrigation.

The Phad system of irrigation, is found in Maharashtra over the rivers Panzara, Girna and Burai, which are tributaries of Tapi.

Similar irrigation systems are also found on rivers Kan and Jamkheli which conjugate in Panzara and the rivers Mosam and Aram which meet at Girna. This irrigation system consists of bunds along the river that divert water into fields systematically and completely managed by the local people / users. Its earliest mention can be traced to 300 BC.

In the Phad system, the diverted water which flows into a field is kept in the field for a few days and then transferred to the second field and so on. Finally if there is any water remaining it is returned to the river. The basis for the operation of this system is the river having water.

The second system that the author mentions is the Overflow Irrigation System. This system was discovered in the early 1920s, when the British were constructing a canal between the rivers Ganga and Damodar. This system comes into use when the river is in spate. Flood waters get diverted to the agricultural fields, by breaching the canal or river in a way, that ensures it can be sealed immediately.

Both irrigation systems are also compared. Though there are many similarities, the latter irrigation system supports one crop a year, while allowing fishing to take place.

In conclusion, the author states that there is need to use the wisdom of our ancient irrigation systems.

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

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