Protecting water sources: Kulams, irrigation channels, public overhead tanks and open wells

FORRAD as CSR partner with Michelin India Private Limited (MIPL) began work in 31 villages and hamlets in Tiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu in 2010. The area falls in the Araniyar basin and is rich in water resources. Each village has at least one lakes and several ponds, most connected to each other in an intricate and effective water management system. The ground water is largely of good quality and stands between 30 – 100 ft. This system is being neglected, with connecting channels blocked, lakes encroached, sand mining and overgrowth. However, for the time being, it still remains water secure. Feeding the command area from all the major tanks are irrigation channels several decades old. These channels reach the fields of small and large farmers alike and particularly useful for the smaller farmers who do not have bore-wells. This accompanied by the fact that irrigation channels reduce the use of groundwater make them invaluable to agriculture in the region. While populations used to maintain the channels as part of community work in a system called “Kudimaramath”, as with all community work this practice also faded away and the channels silted up, choked with weeds and were encroached in many places.

Desilting and clearing irrigation channels and kulams

To demonstrate the value of keeping these resources maintained FORRAD in collaboration with Michelin began desilting and restoring the irrigation channels to use in the villages of Mukarampakkam, Karadiputhur, Kannankottai, Sengarai, Soolaimeni and Kakkavakkam. FORRAD in collaboration with the respective communities have restored 39 km of irrigation channels in 6 villages reaching approximately 1000 farmers. The work was undertaken between 2011 – 2013. 80% of these channels remain in use. The maintenance of these channels has been taken up by the respective panchayats and in most cases is undertaken under MNREGA.

We also began desilting and clearing a few kulams (ponds) of scrub and weeds and garbage. These kulams are used to water animals, by ducks, for fish and occasionally for irrigation. 4 kulams in the villages of Sengarai, Soolaimeni, Perambur and Chinnavanangkuppam were renovated.

Cleaning and repair of public overhead tanks and open wells

FORRAD’s facilitation cell (link to facilitation) undertakes a systematic testing of water quality using field testing kits. In 2010 we found that over 65% of the sources were heavily bacterially contaminated. We focussed on the large public overhead tanks that supplied water to the villages and hadn’t been cleaned in years and on the wells, which over the years had fallen into disuse and were being used as garbage bins.

20 wells have been dewatered, cleaned, repaired and covered with a wire mesh. They are used by households when there is no electricity and are largely free of garbage.

45 public overhead tanks (which had never been cleaned since they were constructed) and 33 school tanks have been cleaned out and now are being maintained by the respective panchayats and are largely free of bacterial contamination.