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Kaluvelly Outlet

Tank Rehabilitation

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 bund

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, etc.

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 overexploitation.

In the Area of Water Resource Development Harvest has undertaken the following projects:

Tank Rehabilitation Project-Pondicherry

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.

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 Rehabilitation works

  1. Introduction in the tank villages.
  2. 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.
  3. Awareness creation through street plays and exhibitions.
  4. Conducting household surveys.
  5. Facilitating exposure visits to rehabilitated tank villages.
  6. Conducting Participatory Rural Appraisals to assess needs (Social Mapping, Collection of Village and Tank time line data, Seasonality diagram, Tank Resource map).
  7. Collection of data on the village, tank and ayacut area from Government departments.
  8. Selection of Executive Committee members and Office Bearers of the Tank Association (60 % Ayacut farmers, 40 % Non Ayacut Farmers and Landless labours).
  9. Membership enrollment for the Tank Association (at least two persons from each house).
  10. Conducting General body meeting.
  11. Registration of the Tank Association
  12. Participatory planning and estimation with the engineers (87.9% PWD and 12.1 % Beneficiaries).
  13. Collection of contributions from farmers (12.1 % of the estimate amount).
  14. 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).
  15. Implementation of the physical works.
  16. Conducting regular Executive Committee Meetings.
  17. 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.

User-based Watershed Development

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.

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 Vanur watershed.

Watershed management, Mahindra & Mahindra M.R.V. Project

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 development.

Capacity building and social development, Dorabji Tata Trust 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 villages.


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