Water Management Section

Keynote Addresses

Deliberations in the Water Management Section of Congress started with two thought provoking plenary addresses by Shri.Anil Agarwal and Shri Nirmal Sengupta. Anil Agarwal observed that traditional knowledge systems acquire the character of genetic knowledge, having been accumulated over time, tested and improved in various field situations, and converted into a set of cultural forms and symbols (e.g. Agricultural, Proverbs). Traditional knowledge systems are necessarily diverse in content for they emerge and incorporate Ecological diversity. As compared to, modern knowledge, they have inherently greater Ecological wisdom, for they operate on a smaller scale and are therefore more responsive to their environments. Our excellent traditional S & T base therefore provides a good starting point to integrate the Traditional with the Modern.

Indian society he said, achieved high levels of literacy, urbanization and prosperity entirely through internal resource mobilization, In the area of water uneven and concentrated monsoon regimes in which floods and droughts are built into the environment, provided the ecological setting against which people evolved a variety of water management systems the zings of Ladakh, the guhls/kuhls of Himalayas the Zabo system of Nagas, bamboo drip irrigation of North Eastern Hills diversion channels of Assam, wells and tanks Of Ganga Valley, over flow irrigation system of Bengal, various water harvesting systems of Rajasthan,tanks of South India and so on. He described their salient features briefly. He observed that through Traditional Water Management Systems (TWAMS) it is possible to meet the drinking water needs of every village in our country. For irrigation, however, traditional methods have to be accompanied by holistic watershed management, equitable sharing of water and appropriate cropping patterns. Finally he underscored the point that TWAMS can be very useful to us in today's context provided a few preconditions are met:

a) We must evolve effective social, political and legal infrastructure so that natural resources are managed at the Village level by the user communities.

b) We must ensure reliability of supplies in low rainfall areas.

c) We must integrate the small water management systems with the big.

Prof. Nirmal Sengupta began his address with the observation that not all that the ancients ever had were merely rituals and prayers there were techniques which are just as precious as modem ones but are unfortunately neglected as primitive and obsolete. For instance, well technology is as old as the Harappan era. And they were not necessarily rudimentary structures either. A well excavated in Harappan site has a brick lining which goes down to more than twelve meters depth. Not only did the techniques spread, but newer techniques were developed: The tank system in South India where slopes are steep and run off drains quickly, techniques of meeting the flood menace in delta areas.etc. Achievements in physical structures were accompanied by skill and knowledge in allied subjects rainfall predictions, ground water exploration, water purification, crop-water relations, administrative institutions to regulate water rights and distribution, etc.

He observed that it was not so much the British colonial government as the post-Independence Indian government that has contributed to the decline of TWAMS. The British did not hesitate to appropriate and develop Indigenous Systems whenever it served their purpose, particularly when they showed chances of enhanced revenues. They showed considerable appreciation of Indigenous Engineering Sciences and talents. The concept "Traditional" is in fact a creation of the post-Independence period, a byproduct of West-centric "Modernization" theories, which argue the absolute necessity of a specific philosophical, social, psychological, cultural, industrial build-up as a prerequisite to development. Under the influence of these theories, Indigenous Knowledge has come to be condemned as a fetter to development. All over the World, there is resurgence of interest in TWAMS not for historical reasons but for purposes of development, in India we still have a lot more to learn and know about them. He then enumerated a number of practices which are widely prevalent in the country but are little understood.

Parallel Sessions

Parallel sessions were conducted on the following themes: Traditional irrigation systems, Traditional drinking Water systems and Purification, Revival / Modernization of TWAMS, Traditional Ground Water Hydrology, Water Divining Techniques.

Traditional Irrigation Systems

In two sessions on traditional irrigation systems on 29 Nov. 1993, ten papers were presented. The papers represented different geographical regions and systems: Irrigation practices of Angami Nagas in the North East (Didar Singh), Traditional water lifting devices of Kerala (Aravindakshan & Sujit Kumar), Traditional cropping pattern in Kaveri basin (R.Ramachandran), Irrigation systems of Himalayas (Ravi Chopra), Rivers and Tanks in Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu, Khadins of Rajasthan (Kolarkar) etc. The papers gave detailed descriptions of the systems as well as attempted quantification of the benefits. Two papers, by Sharma and Nambi," examined the tanks of South India in their wider ecology and environment. Another paper (F.Mathew) .stressed the importance of Farmer's knowledge along with modern engineering measures to counter unreliability of water supplies. Two papers (Ramprasad and Ramachandran) outlined the engineering details of various TWAMS, particularly the tanks of South India.

Drinking Water Systems

Two sessions on drinking water systems held on 30th Nov 1993 had six papers. Two papers from Rajasthan (Ramgopal & Motinot), which dealt with TWAMS in and around the Jodhpur city and purification problems of drinking water. They opined that if the two hundred and twenty nine water bodies in hand around-Jodhpur were to be revived, they could serve the drinking water needs of one third of the population of the city even today. Studies conducted on water purification by traditional methods found that the water was free of suspended impurities," including bacteria. They felt that TWAMS like Nadis, Tankas, etc. have great relevance today if simple water testing kits and purification methods "are provided/ Women who are" traditionally the water collectors can be trained in use of these methods. The other paper (Shekhawat) noted that the neglect of TWAMS is due to the single minded over-emphasis on modem schemes. He stressed the need to integrate employment schemes with the development of TWAMS so that TWAMS become an instrument in the creation of "entitlements" as much as in the creation of sustainable environment. Ah insightful paper (K.M. Namboodirij on drinking water ponds of coastal Orissa noted that considerable skill and knowledge are brought to bear upon the construction of these ponds so that sea/saline water intrusion in drinking water bodies is avoided. He catalogued the construction details of the ponds. Modern j methods of providing "safe" drinking water have completely failed in this area due to the brackishness of groundwater. People prefer the "sweet" water of ponds in which flood waters of monsoon are stored. However, traditional systems of maintenance of these ponds have all but collapsed and the water is highly contaminated. Attempts are being made to revive these ponds with people's cooperation. Another paper (V.V.Diwan) described the water supply system of Aurangabad city developed in the eighteenth century, which in addition to supplying water to a few hamlets, also runs a water-mill to grind grain even today. A paper (Siraz described the water harvesting methods in the caves of Maharashtra. Water was led into huge cisterns' through fractures in the micks and small nallahs made on the rocks. These cisterns are in use even today. Another paper (S.D.Shah) outlined various methods of watershed management by which water harvesting can be doubled in the Konkan-villages around Bombay

Revival and Modernization of TWAMS

In one session on revival and modernization of TWAMS on 1st December 1993 four papers were presented Shri Somasekhar Reddy talked about the different agencies involved in the tank modernization programme in Karnataka, and the differences in their perceptions, approaches and effectiveness. Mr. Khan described the improved "tankas" developed by the CAZRI and their potential in mitigating drinking water hardships in Rajas than. Mr. Waman demonstrated the benefits of the watershed management approach adopted in the village Rategaon Siddhi at the initiative of Shri Anna Hazare. Smt Uma Shankari spoke of her experience in reviving the tanks in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh where farmer's apathy and government inaction are proving to be big hurdles in revival attempts.

Special Lectures by Sunderial Bahuguna and Medha Patkar

There were two special lectures in the water management section which were not previously scheduled; one by Shri.Sundarlal Bahaguna and the other by Smt.Medha Patkar. Shri.Bahaguna observed that the glaciers of Himalayas are rapidly receding because of deforestation. Conversion of forests into timber mines is weakening the watersheds resulting in floods during rainy seasons and drying up of river beds in dry seasons. He came down heavily on water-intensive industries and water-intensive cropping. Export-oriented industries and exporting of crops amounted to export of water, he said. He advocated austerity in the use of water, prioritizing to fulfill basic needs and adoption of new concepts like multi-strayed farming. Smt.Medha Patkar of Narmada Bacho Andolan said that the anti-Narmada movement is not about compensation and rehabilitation of the displaced; it is about destructive development itself. People have no role, no say in modern day development, unlike in traditional systems. In the process of globalization of economics not only village communities but even nation states have lost their decision making powers. Struggles like anti-Narmada dam movement would help in redefining priorities as people define them. She stressed the need for scientists and activists to come together to fight destructive development.

Films and Exhibitions

Films: Five films were shown one on Farmer's perception of Soil and Water conservation by Somasekhar Reddy another on Varaha Mihira's Bio-indicators for Ground Water Exploration by EMRC, Hyderabad this third on Peoples Movements on Water issues in Kutch region by Mr.Mepani, fourth & fifth on the Construction of LDP-lined ponds by Uthhan of Gujarat.

Exhibitions in the Water Management Section were on the following themes:

1. Know you’re TWAMS: a set of over 30 posters dealing with climate, engineering and management aspects of TWAMS - prepared by Esha Shah and Uma Shankari for PPST Foundation, Madras.

2. Irrigating the Himalayas - an exhibition of photographs on the Guhis of Himalayas prepared by Ravi Chopra and Hari Raj. People's Science Institute, Dehradun.

3. Traditional water - lifting devices - posters and photographs prepared by Esha Shah,
Aravindakshan and Janmeja Singh for PPST Foundation, Madras.

4. TWAMS of Rajasthan and tanks of Bundelkand-posters and photographs by Anupam
Mishra, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Delhi.

5. Posters on Water Problems of .Rajasthan Villages and wonting model of "RAHAT" a traditional water lifting device - by Ubeshwar Mandal, Udaipur.

6. A model of the Kaveri basin showing the climatological features and the scientific rationale of traditional cropping patterns in the basin - prepared by R.Ramachandrari and Bhavani for PPST Foundation, Madras.

Special mention must be made of Smt. Esha Shah's efforts in designing, mounting and
putting up the exhibitions.

Competition for Students

A competition for college students was held in collaboration with Anna University, Madras, inviting papers on any aspects of TWAMS. Six papers were received, out of which four were given prizes. All the five students who wrote the "papers participated in the congress.

Two monographs were prepared on the occasion of CTST:

1) a draft of a Reader, a compilation of papers on TWAMS edited by Dr. Barah,
University of Hyderabad. It was displayed at the book exhibition.

2) a popular Reader on engineering and management aspects of TWAMS, by Uma
Shankari and Esha,Shah, titled, Water Management traditions in India , released at the CTST."

Follow Up Measures

One session was devoted to discussing the congress follow-up measures. Many persons gave in writing recommendations following from papers. They include:

1) Establishment of scientific data base to study the effectiveness of Traditional Ground
Water exploration techniques.

2) Government and agencies like NABARD should drop their insistence on sites to be selected, by geophysical methods only.' Ground water diviners should be recognized as professionals so that- geologists and water diviners can complement and supplement each other.

3) Government personnel - irrigation engineers, drinking water specialists, geologists, etc. working in the field have at present no knowledge of TWAMS. A training module should be prepared and given to training institutions of the government.

4) Abandoned/under - utilized TWAMS must be rehabilitated.

5) A ban should be imposed on conversion and utilization of tank beds, etc. for other

6) Water harvesting systems with an annual cycle should be preferred to large reservoirs
with storages extending over a year - this will prevent the problem of water logging and salinity.

7) Watershed development approach should be adopted, the components of which are contour trenching, nallah bonding, check dams/bondages construction, water retention/detention monitoring, a forestation and village level committees for effective utilization of surface and subsurface waters,

8) Hydrogeomorphoiogical maps should be made available to district and taluk offices.

9) Ground water legislation must be speedily enacted in every state and implemented by the Panchayats.

There was much demand for formation of technical support services for activities and groups working at the field level. Shri. Deepak Mepani offered all assistance to such a technical support group to work on water problems of the-Kutch region. Shri. Arun Kumar of School of .Desert Sciences, Jodhpur agreed to coordinate the work. Similarly Sri. Babfoo Ganguly offered facilities at his place at Anantapur. Technical support group for Narmada,Bachao Andolan was also mooted. A meeting to evolve a National Perspective on water was proposed. A committee to formulate a curriculum on TWAMS was also suggested.

A steering committee was formed to pursue congress follow-up tasks consisting of the following members Sri. Nirmal Sengupta, Sri Ramgopal, Sri. Somasekhar Reddy, Sri. Ravi Kumar, Smt. Esha Shah and Smt. Uma Shankari. This group will, to begin with, start an exchange and information service through a bulletin/newsletter.

Shri.NIRMAL SENGUPTA, MIDS,79, find Main Road, Gandhi Nagar, Adyar, Madras - 600020.

Smt. UMA SHANKARI, c/o. PPST Foundation, P.B. 2085, Adyar, Madras - 600 020.

Dr.RAM GOPAL, Joint Director, Defense Laboratory, Jodhpur - 342 011.

Mr.S.T.SOMASEKHAR REDDY, Indian Inst, of Management, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore - 560 076, Tel: 080- 6632450.

Mr.U.N.RAVIKUMAR, Coordinator, CART, NIE, Mysore - 570 008.

Ms.ESHA SHAH, Lecturer, Dept of Rural Studies, South Gujarat University, Sural - 395 007.

Contact Address:
Smt. Hema Shankari,
c/o. PPST Foundation,
P.B. 2085, Adyar, Madras - 600 020.

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