Traditional Methods of Water Harvesting and applicability

Conclusion and way forward
A systematic support to local innovations on decentralized  rainwater harvesting could provide substantial amounts of water in times to  come. Simple local technique such as ponds and earthen embankments could help  in harvesting and storage of rain water. Also traditional systems of rainwater  harvesting would become more efficient if scientific attempts are combined to  enhance the productivity of local knowledge. Instead of looking for big bang solutions, imported from the West, we must look  at indigenous ways of water harvesting. This initiative could be undertaken by  NGO’s and other voluntary organizations. These would find greater acceptance from  rural India and come at a lower cost.
However, using traditional  methods of water harvesting is not rocket science. It requires community effort  i.e. could be guided by the Gram Panchayats and funded by the State government.  The government could play the role of facilitator and provide adequate funds.  Funds allocated under The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme could be  used to support the water harvesting effort. An increase in water supply would  enhance agricultural output and farm incomes with positive spin offs on the  Indian economy.

1. Bonthakur  S. 2009 Traditional Rain water harvesting techniques and its applicability by  Saponthi Bonthakur. Ind. Trad. Knowledge, 8:4.
2. Shenoy N.K. 2009 Traditional water  harvesting methods of India. Organiser 22-23.
3. Jackson  R.B. et al. 2001. Water in a changing  world. Ecol. Appl., 11, 1027-1045.
The Authors teach at Govt.  J.D.B.Girls College, Kota

Editor’s thoughts –
1. Mumbai expects to run out of water by mid to end June  2010 yet there is no awareness in buildings or the man on the street. Few buildings have pioneered the concept of rain water harvesting unlike Chennai  where perpetual water shortage have made people more aware.
2. Central and state government spend crores of rupees on  farmer subsidies but not incurring capital expenditure to build permanent  irrigation facilities.
3. One of the reasons for the increasing food  production in Gujarat today is the construction of check and small dams all  over Gujarat. Water that used to overflow into the sea or drain off is now  preserved through check dams. This has enhanced water levels overall. Even an  arid area like Kutch has enough water today. The state’s success has been  highlighted in various issues of the magazine India Today.
4. “One tank, one temple and a grazing land for cattle of  a village was the concept of our ancestors which would support sustainable  growth of villages. Water tanks served the following purposes—Flood control,  prevention of soil erosion, reducing wastage of run-off and recharging groundwater.  The management of tanks was given to individuals or to village communities or to temples. Entire tank system was suitable for direct irrigation for  agriculture and easy for decentralized water management. These tanks have been  constructed using stone, cement or mud or a combination of these.
 5. According to British gazetteer there existed 36,235  tanks in Karnataka in 1871 and 39,202 tanks (called Eris) in Tamil Nadu. Andra  Pradesh recorded 58,518 tanks at the end of the First Five Year Plan. Irrigation  data shows that one-third of the irrigated area in Tamil Nadu is watered by  eris. Eris was maintained by the local communities with locally available  resources. Tanks or eris are one of the oldest in irrigation engineering  designs in the country”. Dr Narayana Shenoy
6. Instead of looking for big bang solutions, some  imported from the West, we must look at indigenous ways of water harvesting.  This initiative is best undertaken by local people with Government / NGO  support. These would find greater acceptance from rural India and come at a  lower cost.

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