Agri Politics Agriculture Resource Management

What Tamil Nadu government should learn from its neighboring states in water management ?

Peninsular India is bestowed with adequate rainfall owing to its long coastline and influence of both Southwest and Northeast monsoon.  But it’s distinct geographical features requires it to effectively store rainwater and utilize it year around. Non perennial nature of peninsular rivers; undulating relief and underlying hard rocks makes it difficult to dig canals and wells ; need for tanks to impound short duration monsoon rains are all challenges of peninsular plateau. The state of Tamil Nadu is no exception to this.

Historically, Tamil Nadu is known for its temple tanks and community tanks that not only save water for summer but also act as artificial groundwater recharge structures. It also set an example by making rainwater harvesting mandatory in all buildings. But now water crisis associated with monsoon failure for consecutive years has lead it to a desperate situation. Politicizing interstate river water dispute has only helped the political groups of Tamil Nadu to cover up it’s failure of water management by pointing up its finger towards neighboring States and Central Government.

Tamil Nadu government failed to look into solutions beyond legal battles with other states in getting its due share of its water. All the peninsular states are facing the same water crisis as like Tamil Nadu. Surprisingly they all have a long term mission or schemes to tackle that situation except Tamil Nadu. That’s what Tamil Nadu (TN) should learn from its neighbours.

Mission Kakatiya of Telangana – Restoring tanks:

Tamil Nadu and erstwhile United Andhra Pradesh are the states with largest number of tanks in Southern India. In Tamil Nadu, now the tanks are maintained only in government records. Thanks to real estate boom. But Telangana government with inspiration from historical Kakatiya dynasty started desilting and restoring village tanks

“The mission envisages preparation of total 46,531 minor irrigation tanks at the rate of around 9,306 tanks a year” says project report.

TN water management lessons
Mission Kakatiya

It also uses remote sensing satellites for geo-database and dedicated website for transparency. Besides water conservation, the benefits included use of silted sediments in agriculture that increased productivity and reduced fertilizer usage. The mission also reported to have reduced rural to urban migration.

Tamil Nadu government too allocates budget every year for desiltation of tanks. But lack of long term vision, poor transparency and accountability didn’t bring any socio economic development of rural population and farmers. Lakes and tanks continue to disappear year after year.

Haritam Kerala – for greener and cleaner Kerala:

The sad state of Thamirabarani river (the only river that has its source in TN) is an example of poor river management in Tamilnadu. Indiscriminate use of water by industries; illegal sand mining; mixing up of polluted waters; encroachment of river beds are not common only to Thamirabarani river but also to Palar and Noyyal rivers. Kerala in its Haritha Keralam mission intends to clean and remove waste from all the water bodies. It also envisage removal of waste by people’s participation and also literary water conservation awareness.

“The most beautiful part of Haritham Kerala is to increase area of cultivation by reviving water resources”

TN government lessons for water management
Hartitham kerala

Cleaning up and reviving of existing rivers and water structures are low hanging fruits in addressing water crisis. TN government should open up its ears to demands of civil society, NGOs and local communities in saving water resources of their locality with their participation. I’m surprised by the fact that, the state (TN) with 17 big rivers and 99 small rivers couldn’t be self-sufficient in water.


TN water management memes
memes in support of River conservation is popular in Social media of TN

Jalyukt Shivar Yojana – for drought free Maharashtra:

Tamil Nadu government is criticized by farmer organisations for not recognising agricultural suicides due to crop loss. Political factors motivate government to under report farmer suicide in the state without actually taking adequate measures. Farmer suicide particularly in Peninsular India is closely linked to water scarcity or monsoon failures. Maharashtra government set its track towards making it as a drought free state by 2019 by reviving its water bodies.

“Deepening and widening of stream, construction of cement and earthen stop dams and digging up of farm ponds are included in the scheme to mitigate drought”

TN water management lessons
Jalyukt shivar yojna

Mobile app and web page has been developed for mapping and transparency. Similarly TN government can also seek solution to farmer suicide by mitigating drought. Jalyukt Shivar Yojana sets a right example for T.N. to combine drought mitigation, water conservation and farmers welfare under a single umbrella.

Andhra Pradesh – first state in India to link rivers:

Tamil Nadu has long been vocal in interlinking of rivers across country. Recent protest of TN farmers in Jantar Mantar demanded interlinking of rivers. Retrospecting it’s stand, Did TN government make any attempt to link rivers within its border ? Or is there any project in place to divert surplus water from one river basin to another within state ? The answer is Negative. But Andhra Pradesh Government took historical step in linking Mighty Godavari and Krishna rivers. This mega project known as “Pattiseema lift irrigation scheme” has entered limca Book of Records for being completed within a year.

“Report said that about 3000 TMC of Godavari water flows away into Bay of Bengal every year. Now, 120 TMC ft of water from Godavari will be drawn and released to Krishna, thus changing the face of farmers and villagers of both Rayalaseema and Krishna delta.”

Pattiseema lift irrigation scheme

Tamil Nadu government has envisioned Cauvery-Vaigai link Canal project and Thamirabarani- Nambiar link Canal project approximately a decade back. But backlog in implementation by successive government turned blind eye towards farmers of Pudukkottai – Sivagangai – Ramanathapuram districts and Tirunelveli – Tuticorin districts respectively. Shouldn’t TN be an example if it vigorously pursued the demand of interlinking rivers across the country ? It’s no wrong in calling drought in TN as mostly man-made when 259 tmft (thousand million cubic feet) of flood water was wasted annually by draining into sea.

Earlier in one of my Agri politics article, I had written that Jallikattu shouldn’t be seen just as a matter of Tamil pride. Similarly Inter state river problems and water crisis should not be looked just as element of Tamil pride or through glasses of regionalism.

Changing demographics, population explosion, monsoon failure, over exploitation of scarce resource has made water crisis a common problem across India. When most of the peninsular states (of India) have formulated long term strategy to tackle the crisis, Tamil Nadu shall not be left behind. The “blame game” should be replaced with effective policies on par with their counterparts in the region.


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