Poor upkeep of canals blamed for Delta crisis

Exchange of ideas: The workshop on Cauvery delta canals and irrigation system organised by the French Institute of Pondicherry discussed how village communities in the past had maintained the facilities.

Exchange of ideas: The workshop on Cauvery delta canals and irrigation system organised by the French Institute of Pondicherry discussed how village communities in the past had maintained the facilities.   | Photo Credit: S_S_KUMAR

Several tanks and canals have disappeared endangering the livelihood of farmers, says expert

Against the backdrop of calamitous drought in the Cuavery delta region and the long-standing dispute over sharing of the river water between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, a workshop on “Canals and computations: understanding irrigation engineering and social relations in the Kaveri Delta” was organised at the French Institute of Pondicherry on Friday.

Tracing the history of a large number of canals and tanks which formed the lifeline of the irrigation in the delta region to the 7th Century A.D., Y. Subbarayalu, senior epigraphist, said poor maintenance and lack of policy direction had caused the disappearance of several canals and tanks causing a huge loss to the delta region.

He said the Cauvery irrigation system was as old as the Tamil history and the references date back to the 7th Century A.D.. Besides inscriptions from the 9th century explain how a large number of tanks were built and maintained in the north and south of Cauvery.

“Although we do not come across references to dams in Chola inscriptions, there is information on canals and head sluices and the main canals that branch out from the Cauvery in Tiruchi district. The earliest stone dam that we come across in Tamil Nadu was found across the Vaigai river built by Pandya king in 13th Century,” he said.

Mr. Subbarayalu explained how the village communities maintained canals and tanks and ways in which annual maintenance was carried out by the workers. He said that canals and tanks were not separate systems and inscriptions elucidate that the tanks were an integral part of the canal system. “In the fringe areas of north and south of Cauvery, these tanks were essential for the local irrigation,” he said.

Vital sources

He added that many things had changed over the period of time and it was difficult to identify the water source. “Now, everyone is cultivating their land using borewell and it is only a part of the irrigation system. It is up to the irrigation and technical experts to address the question of reviving these sources,” he said.

Stating that status of canals became a vital discussing point during drought, Senthil Babu of IFP said the workshop was organised to discuss the historical relationship between canal irrigation and the organisation of physical settlements of peasants and labour around land and canals.

Several PWD engineers spoke on irrigation in delta region.

A round table was held comprising activists and writers such as V. Geetha from Chennai, Ravi Bhalla of Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning (FERAL), K. Balakrishnan of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, and Somu Ilango of Thalaignayiru in Nagapattinam.

Frederic Landy, Director, and Audrey Richard, Head, Social Sciences, IFP, were present.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 5:23:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/poor-upkeep-of-canals-blamed-for-delta-crisis/article19520111.ece

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