90% of the monsoon
rains run-off the Kaluvelly watershed to the sea, at the outlet
above. Repairing its shutters and re-building the spillway is a
must to conserve freshwater.
Once repaired, the tanks provide easily accessible surface water to
the farmers, and recharge the aquifers.
G. Portchejian – Harvest's survey engineer using
Differential GPS, 2 cm accuracy, for location and elevation
Planting vegetation at Vanur Small Tank on the tank
Excavator at work
Harvest's water resource development activities are carried out
by the Tank Rehabilitation Team, the engineering team and the social
team. The activities encompass social mobilization works, the rehabilitation
of irrigation tanks, village ponds, and engineering support towards
designing check dams, minor dams, artificial recharge structures,
The Traditional Irrigation System
The area around Auroville is covered by an interconnected network
of rainwater storage tanks ( erys ) and ponds ( ooranis )
that flow into the Kaluvelly Swamp . Many centuries ago there were
thousands of these tanks that not only recharged the groundwater
table after the monsoon rains but also provided the sole source for
drinking and irrigation water. They guaranteed a decent crop, and
sometimes even two crops a year. It changed with the advent of the
diesel engine. Farmers could pump unlimited amounts of water at cheap
costs from the first aquifer, up to a depth of 40 meters. When submersible
electric pumps appeared on the market and the Government agreed to
supply free electricity to farmers, the second aquifer started to
be mercilessly tapped, leading to depletion of groundwater and in
some coastal villages to intrusion of seawater into the ground water.
The tanks and their connecting channels were forgotten, silted up
and fell into ruins.
Now many of the tanks are being rehabilitated with help from governmental
bodies and NGO's such as Harvest. By acting both as water supply
for irrigation and as recharge for the aquifers they could provide
at least part of the solution to the problem of massive groundwater
In the Area of Water Resource Development Harvest has undertaken
the following projects:
The Tank Rehabilitation Project-Pondicherry (TRPP) was initiated
in the year 1999, with aid from the European Union. It is coordinated
by the Project Management Unit of the Public Works Department, Govt.
Pondicherry. This is a unique project in Pondicherry as it involves
the participation of all the stakeholders in all stages of the project.
The successful implementation of the tank rehabilitation works and
the sustainable management of the system lie in the effective mobilization
of the whole community. In order to create awareness on the management
of water resources and to make the people to get involved in the
project, Community Organisers are employed through the NGOs. Harvest
was entrusted with the work of Community Organizing since the pilot
phase of the project. Today, 10 Community Organisers and one Nodal
Officer are deployed by Harvest to carry out Social mobilization
in 31 tank villages.
Tank Rehabilitation Project-Pondicherry
As well Harvest conducted GPS topographic surveying in tanks, channels
and ayacut areas for TRPP. Surveys were conducted in the Pondicherry
Region and the adjacent Tamil Nadu area. The end product was the
submission of computer generated topographic maps and reports describing
the methodology used as well as volume computation.
Steps in Community Organization and Implementation of Tank
- Introduction in the tank villages.
- Conducting sub-group meetings with the different
stakeholders including: Ayacut farmers, non ayacut farmers, farmers
with their own bore wells, landless agricultural labours, scheduled
caste people in the colony, women and youth groups, and other general
users of the tank.
- Awareness creation through street plays and exhibitions.
- Conducting household surveys.
- Facilitating exposure visits to rehabilitated tank
- Conducting Participatory Rural Appraisals to assess
needs (Social Mapping, Collection of Village and Tank time line
data, Seasonality diagram, Tank Resource map).
- Collection of data on the village, tank and ayacut
area from Government departments.
- Selection of Executive Committee members and Office
Bearers of the Tank Association (60 % Ayacut farmers, 40 % Non
Ayacut Farmers and Landless labours).
- Membership enrollment for the Tank Association (at
least two persons from each house).
- Conducting General body meeting.
- Registration of the Tank Association
- Participatory planning and estimation with the engineers
(87.9% PWD and 12.1 % Beneficiaries).
- Collection of contributions from farmers (12.1 %
of the estimate amount).
- Capacity building through trainings (Leadership
skills development, Technical training, Accounts and Book keeping
training, Tree plantation, Fish culture, Crop and water management
through Farmers Field Schools).
- Implementation of the physical works.
- Conducting regular Executive Committee Meetings.
- Maintenance of accounts and auditing.
Sustainability and Future Maintenance of the Tank
1. Provision of User rights of the tank to the Tank Association.
The benefits from the trees and fishing in the tank are given to
the Tank associations and the amount earned is used for the maintenance
of the structures of the tank.
2. Corpus fund
This fund is developed as a joint contribution from farmers (Rs. 250
per Ha. of Ayacut land), PMU (Rs. 150 per Ha. of Ayacut land) and the
Agriculture Department (Rs. 1000 per Ha. of Ayacut land). The interest
from the fixed deposit of this amount is utilized for further maintenance
of the tank.
In Tamil Nadu Harvest has completed the rehabilitation work of 18
minor irrigation tanks and 17 other water ponds under Namakku Naame
Thittam and Employment Assurance Scheme sponsored by the Directorate
of Rural Development Agency, Villupuram. 14 Water Users Associations
have been organized and the creation of the first federation of associations
in the region is on the Anvil.
User-based Watershed Development
These works took place as part of the Kaluvelly project. The long-term
vision is the establishment of a user-based watershed management
model called the Kaluvelly Watershed Development Agency.
Augmentation of Groundwater through Artificial Recharge in Vanur
watershed at Villupuram District
Under funding by the Central Ground Water Board SERC – Chennai, this
project aimed to recharge into the Vanur sandstone aquifer under the
Auroville Plateau and protect the pumping stations of Tindivanam (a
city of 200,000 inhabitants, 30 km from Auroville), which is threatened
by seawater intrusion. Both social mobilization activities and physical
works were undertaken by Harvest. The major outcomes of this project
were the rehabilitation of three minor irrigation tanks (Katrampakkam,
Vanur Big tank and Vanur small tank), construction of 7 percolation
ponds, construction of 6 observation wells used to measure the water
levels, and the installation of an Automatic Weather Station in the
Expertise and proposals have been provided to the Mahindra & Mahindra's
River Valley project located near the Ovala Village in Thane District
of Maharashtra, towards sound watershed and rainwater harvesting
Watershed management, Mahindra & Mahindra – M.R.V. Project
In 1999 The Dorabji Tata Trust donated two Tata Hitachi excavators
(LC200, tracked) to Auroville Water Service to support the Water User's
Associations in water harvesting works. Harvest has used these excavators
to efficiently and effectively carry out water harvesting works for
the benefit of WUA`s around the Auroville bioregion as well as in TRPP
Capacity building and social development, Dorabji Tata Trust Project