Building Social Capital for Rain Water Harvesting in Rural Water bodies

“Building Social capital for Rain Water Harvesting in Rural Water bodies”

Water plays an important role in human life not only because it is crucial for nourishment of life but also due to its metabolic importance. The tanks in south India mostly formed by earthen embankments have become the backbone of civilisation and human development. Village tanks occupy the significant position in irrigation and in the local ecosystem in low rainfall areas. Irrigation tanks have been one of the most important water resources of the rural community in the country. Most of these tanks are situated in semi-arid tropics of the southern Indian peninsular region where there are no rivers of importance. These water harvesting structures serve and benefit various groups and section of the village community as farmers, fisherman, potters, washers, cattle owners and the women.

After the British rule ended the government has not attempted to renovate or develop these structures which have reduced the participation of people in these efforts. Unfortunately the importance was transferred from tanks to large reservoirs and other modern irrigation systems.

Village Tank or Pond being used for harvesting and storing rainwater.
Village Tank or Pond being used for harvesting and storing rainwater. (Image source)

The status of tank irrigation is therefore becoming worse over the years. The farmers who are at the mercy of the monsoon rains in the peninsular India have started losing their only source of water for crop production. The time has come to conserve these traditional systems and technologies, which have survived over the centuries, but facing the onslaught of ‘modern’ adventures like deep bore wells and big dams. This can be possible only through renewal of building people’s stake and bringing back people management to revive and maintain the precious gifts to the village communities.

Historically tank irrigation plays a vital role in the development of its agricultural economy. There are around 80000 small and big irrigation tanks dotted over the state irrigating over a million ha in the most drought prone and semi arid regions of the state. Most of these tanks are situated where there are no possibilities of providing other systems of irrigation.

 Why rainwater harvesting is essential to revive these tanks?

Issues like shortage of drinking water, lack of fodder for livestock, migration and negligent attitude of line departments made agriculture vulnerable and the life miserable in India. Inspite of these issues there are few cases where people were succeeded in overcoming these issues but mainly through natural resources management.

In India, traditional small scale water harvesting structures called ‘Kunta or Kere’ plays a vital role in the livelihoods of the farming community. These small tanks of large numbers exists in the South India  with a command area ranges from 2 to 2000 hectares.

Note: This is third article, in the series of articles on “Water Issues”. Click here to read other articles.

For knowing more on connecting human rights and water, read previous article, Water as human right | Ujwalandhra Pradesh .

Read the introductory article, here: Water Issues – Introduction | Ujwalandhra Pradesh.

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