Farmers want tanks, ponds under Eri Sangams

Under threat: The ‘Mottai Thoppu Pond’ at Annamalai Nagar, which the residents are fighting to conserve.

Under threat: The ‘Mottai Thoppu Pond’ at Annamalai Nagar, which the residents are fighting to conserve.   | Photo Credit: S_S_KUMAR

Puducherry reportedly had 87 irrigation tanks and 1,000 ponds when the French government handed over the Union Territory to India

With farmers and tank associations mooting a proposal to put Eri Sangams in-charge of the upkeep of waterbodies, the demand for the revival of tank management system that had been in vogue during the French regime has been gaining ground.

Under the French regime, tanks and irrigation channels were under the care of Syndicate Agricole and Caisse Commune.

These associations had farmers and representatives from Local Administration and the irrigation wing of the Public Works Department (PWD). The maintenance of tanks was left to these associations and it was a democratic set-up where members were elected on rotation.

According to V. Chandrasekhar, president, Bangaaru Vaickal Neeraadhara Koottamaippu, Puducherry had 87 irrigation tanks and 1,000 ponds when the French handed over the territory to the Government of India.

Efficient system

“Modelled on the historical Kudimaramathu scheme, the French had an efficient management system which was subsequently institutionalised as the Syndicate Agricole and Caisse Commune system carried out through participatory processes.

However, in 40 years since the management of the waterbodies was entrusted to the Local Administration Department and the Public Works Department, three tanks have been completely encroached and urbanised beyond retrieval,” Mr. Chandrasekhar said.

Puducherry has 84 tanks and more than half of the ponds had been encroached and the land gobbled up by realtors, thanks to a nexus among politicians, realtors and officials. The city now has only 500 ponds left and it is time the upkeep of these warbodies was handed over to the Eri Sangams to protect them, he said.

And all these were taken up for rehabilitation under an European Union (EU)-funded programme called “Tank Rehabilitation Project — Puducherry (TRPP)” in 1999.

It was then that participatory tank users’ associations were formed. Reputed non-governmental organisations were roped in to train the members of these associations, which also had the backing of a project management unit.

Successful effort

The project was run by the Public Works Department with support from other departments such as agriculture, local administration department and revenue. The programme was in force till 2004.

As it was a big success, the Puducherry government decided to continue the project for another five years from 2004. However, the Public Works Department engineers did not continue it, say sources.

Mr. Chandrasekhar said the TRPP had doubled the storage capacity of several tanks.

Farmers’ associations claim that when Eri Sangams could identify the lost irrigation tanks that were neglected by the LAD and PWD and rejuvenate them back to their original condition with a very low investment, why can’t the government take it up on a much bigger scale?

The PWD had allowed realtors to take over the tanks over the years, they alleged.

The government should review its decision and hand over the maintenance of waterbodies to Eri Sangams. The 500-odd ponds should be identified, mapped, encroachments evicted and action taken against those who filled up these pond systems, the associations say.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 4:06:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/farmers-want-tanks-ponds-under-eri-sangams/article24962853.ece

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