S. Annamalai

MADURAI: A project to develop water sources in five districts is to be implemented with assistance from the European Union and Oxfam-Novib, a Netherlands-based organisation.

The project, which aims to revive water bodies in rural areas, will be executed by the Madurai-based Dhan Foundation through villagers.

The objective of the project, according to R. Seenivasan, Programme Leader, Dhan Foundation, is to save and use the traditional village tanks and ponds to harvest water in order to reduce desertification in coastal areas.

Starting from this year, 75 irrigation tanks will be revived and 25 village ponds and 1,500 farm ponds created over a period of three years in Tuticorin, Ramanathapuram, Pudukottai, Thanjavur and Nagapattinam districts.

Dhan Foundation has the experience of developing hundreds of water bodies through earlier projects in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry.

Explaining the modus operandi, Mr. Seenivasan said that the Dhan Foundation had been entrusted with the execution and evaluation of this special project. In the past, government agencies were involved in evaluation.

Village associations would be involved in the execution at the ground level with the assistance of engineers from Dhan. The irrigation tanks targeted for revival would have an ayacut of below 100 acres. For 2009, it had been planned to revive 25 irrigation tanks, 12 village ponds (ooranis) and 500 farm ponds.

In places where there were no village committees, the Dhan Foundation would form them to undertake the project.

The villagers themselves would be involved in the work as it was mandatory that 25 per cent of the project cost should come in the form of money or labour from the beneficiaries.

A bank account would be opened in the name of the village committee and the money required for the execution deposited in it.

Mr. Seenivasan said that Dhan’s past experience in execution of water projects had shown that only with people’s participation could they be sustained.

The total project cost, according to Mr. Seenivasan, is Rs 6 crore, of which 80 per cent will be funded by the European Union.

The rest come from Oxfam-Novib. About 12, 500 families living in these districts are expected to benefit from it.