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Ancient Temples can be Inspiration for Water Conservation:  Here is Why!

Tamil Nadu’s temple inscriptions can provide some key points on drought-management and water conservation

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A temple in Tamil Nadu
A temple in Tamil Nadu. Pixabay

Chennai, July 30, 2017: The droughts that affected the civilizations centuries ago can tell us about ways to handle the present ones.To have a better understanding, we need to look at the walls of temples in Tamil Nadu.

Today, temples or any religious monuments are occasionally visited for spiritual significance attached to it, their art and architecture. But, in the past, the walls of it were used to serve as record keepers. Inscriptions on Tamil Nadu’s temples are a record of administrative and social decisions made from a time when what was written on them was controlled by the local community.

Tamil Nadu is divided into two broad zones, the Cauvery delta and the Tamirabarani delta as per inscriptions on irrigation. The Cauvery delta was more fertile and larger with more tributaries still, the number of drought-related inscriptions here is more in number than the Tamirabarani delta. About 1,000 years ago, during the peak of the Chola power, irrigation in the Cauvery delta was through the many tributaries of the river and smaller canals.

The Tamirabarani region was much more water-starved and gives us a surprising data on what we need to do. There are Inscriptions from as old as 700-1,000 years ago, about various ways to conserve water in temples at places like Mannarkovil, Cheranmahadevi, Tirukurungudi, Kovilpatti, and Pudukkottai, indicates few aspects.

Temple inscriptions also included documents connected with the sale, transfer, and maintenance of irrigated lands. Today, we look at water as a right but in the older times, it was a representation of God and it was the duty of residents to protect and conserve it. Further, the respect for water reached the public sphere and became part of individual homes as well. In the 1970s, when the older women drew water from the wells, they poured the first pot back into them.

Water is precious. Pixabay

During the reign of Pandya Empire, water conservation was a completely local affair. The entire community, through the elected temple Mahasabha, managed it. The responsibility of constant supervision and monitoring was on local bodies. All systems and processes sustained due to an emotional connection with the resource.

Water from the Tamirabarani and the Vaigai rivers in Tamil Nadu was taken through channels into formations like small lakes called Eris and bigger lakes called per-eris. These channels created square parcels of lands called sadirams and they were subdivided into smaller padagams of land, all of which had numbers. There were around 20-24 padagams in a sadiram. They were taxed on the basis of their fertility. A system far more complex and farmer-friendly than today!

Every tank had multiple weirs to drain out excess water, built in agreement with the local terrain. Using these, farmers irrigated the fields. There were complex calculations on allocation by turns (murai) and hours of supply (nir naligai). The interests of the boatmen in the lower estuaries and ports were also taken care of so that there was enough water there to permit them to bring boats up the river. The higher number of large tanks was in upper reaches which fed water into the smaller tanks and ponds before it finally drained into the sea. The result of it was- during floods, the limits were rarely breached, and during droughts, each tank had water.

Maintenance of the tanks was done through desilting process, enlargement, building, and maintaining of new canals, it was a continuous process. More than a hundred inscriptions across the region dealt exclusively with this. Fishing rights for the lakes helped to cover maintenance costs. Revenues were good enough as the excess profits were used in building larger halls in temples that could be used for public functions.

In Srivilliputhur, Tamil Nadu, every able-bodied man was expected to participate in such water conservation methods or operations. Some inscriptions indicates-maintenance was a local responsibility and not that of the king. In fact, many capital-intensive projects were funded by the dancing women of temples.

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Many inscriptions talk of tax concessions provided following natural disasters (and after a disaster, the community used to quickly act together to set the system right) and a note of reclaimed lands.

It is true that the inscriptions don’t paint a utopian world. They also talk about disputes related to water sharing and taxes; deaths that happened during desilting; and fights over excess water for more rounds of crops. But such disputes were quickly resolved and the river or tank was respected.

Today, we may have advanced in terms of technology but we could still pick some of the best practices from earlier times.

prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08


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Rajasthan’s Ramsar Village becomes self-reliant: Converts 52-hectare Barren land into Lake

The depth of lake is five feet and has a capacity of 4.08 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) for now

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52 hectares of land then and now. Image Source: Thebetterindia.com
  • The 52 hectares of barren land has now been converted into a lake for water conservation purposes
  • The water body is now replenishing the wells of the village and also of the areas located nearby
  • First showers the lake received a good amount of water, which will now be used to recharge the wells that had dried up this summer

AJMER: After sweating hard for almost five months, the residents of Ramsar, a village in Ajmer, Rajasthan have been successful at converting a barren piece of land into a lake for water conservation purposes.

The 52 hectares of barren land near Bhilo ki Basti in Ramsar was previously used as a dumping ground to throw away garbage collected from the areas nearby.

Speaking to Times of India, Ram Singh Rawat of the village, revealed, “There was a water outlet on this land which worked as a channel to Ramsar lake but over a period of time this channel went dry and the land was left barren.”

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However, now filled with water, the water body is replenishing the wells of the village and also of the areas located near the village.

A dried well. Image Source: Wikipedia.org
A dried well. Image Source: Wikipedia.org

Ramsar region received eight inches of water in pre-monsoon rains, which has filled this lake.

According to a TOI report, District collector Gaurav Goyal, who recently went to inspect the work also congratulated the villagers for contributing towards chief minister’s Jal Sawavlamban Abhiyan.

It was the initiation by district administration that inspired the villagers to develop that piece of land into a lake. Also, because that was a low area and so it was an ideal spot to collect rainwater from the nearby areas.

Exhilarated Goyal said TOI, “This barren land was not in use. We took this land to develop a lake and sanctioned Rs 8 lakh for it. Now you can see the results.”

He further explained that the depth of the lake is five feet and has a capacity of 4.08 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) for now.

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He added that during the first showers the lake received a good amount of water, which will now be used to recharge the wells that had dried up this summer.

It is believed that the lake will make the local farmers self-reliant and will also fulfil the drinking water needs.

Kailash Kumawat, a farmer, explained, “Initially we thought that the administration wanted us to work under MGNREGA and wanted to pay us. We have nothing to do in summer months and so came out to dig the land. But to our pleasant surprise now we have water in our well.”

Brimming with optimism villagers are already sowing seeds and are certain that they will get water for irrigation on time.

-This article is modified by Bulbul Sharma, a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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One response to “Rajasthan’s Ramsar Village becomes self-reliant: Converts 52-hectare Barren land into Lake”

  1. It is really a good idea to convert a barren land into a lake. It will provide employment to the people and will help in utilising the land judiciously.

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Vertical farming: A big leap towards sustainable farming

The vertical farming reduces the dependency and cost of skilled labourers, weather conditions, soil fertility or high water usage.Nearly 30% profitability can be obtained through this technique.

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vertical farming
Vertical Farming. Image source: Industrytap.com

What Is Vertical Farming?

Vertical farming is the technique of producing food in stacked layers or on vertically inclined surfaces which comprises of new automated farms. It requires less natural dependency and helps in reducing the dependency and cost of skilled labourers, weather conditions, soil fertility or high water usage.

What Vertical Farming Does?

  • Modern day vertical farming includes controlled environment agriculture technology i.e. CEA technology. All other environmental factors can be controlled using this technique. Techniques such as augmentation of sunlight by artificial lightning and by metal reflectors are also used for producing a similar greenhouse-like effect.
  • Vertical farms is a pesticide-free technique which requires much less input than traditional farming methods and gives much more output.
  • Farms embedded with this technique uses artificial lighting systems that facilitate enhanced photosynthesis. LEDs are placed near plants to impart specific wavelengths of lights for more photosynthesis. This enhances productivity.
  • Aeroponic mist’ is another technique used which helps in supplying the proper amount of oxygen and other soil nutrients. This makes the nature of growth more robust.

Advantages & Benefits of vertical farming techniques are as follows:

  • Vertical farming enables Reliable harvest. With it, the term ‘seasonal crops’ becomes obsolete. Irrespective of sunlight, pests or extreme temperature, these farms can easily meet the demand of contractors anytime.
  • Minimum overheads – Nearly 30% profitability can be obtained through this growing technique.
    • Low energy usage – Use of computerized LEDs by giving proper wavelength reduces energy to a great extent.
    • Low labour costs – Fully automated technique so no skilled labours are required.
    • Low water usage – Controlled transpiration technique are used. It requires only 10% of the water usage of traditional technique.
    • Reduced washing and processing – No pests control required. Reduces the cost of damage washing.
    • Reduced transportation costs – Can be established in any location. This reduces the cost of transportation and usage.
  • Increased growing area – Enables cost effective farming and provides nearly 8 times more productivity.
  • Maximum crop yield – Irrespective of other geographic factors Vertical Farming technique gives maximum yield.
  • A wide range of crops – Growth of crop are maintained by an intensive database which enables them to grow a wide range of crops such as Baby spinach, Baby rocket, Basil, Tatsoi, Leaf lettuce.
  • Fully integrated technology – All environmental factors are closely monitored and are maintained in an optimal range.
    • Optimum air quality
    • Optimum nutrient and mineral quality
    • Optimum water quality
    • Optimum light quality

All these technologies used leads to a dramatic shift in plant growth rates and their yields.

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Prepared by Pritam. Twitter handle @pritam_gogreen

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Chennai Floods: Wake up call for saving disappearing water bodies

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By Nithin Sridhar

The Chennai flood situation has once again brought forward the ugly results of mindless urbanization that is driven by greed and have no regard for environmental concerns.

Chennai has recorded the highest rainfall in the last 100 years. The houses, buildings, and the streets have all been flooded with water. There is a huge loss to life and property. But, much of this could have been avoided if only the city planners and builders had given proper consideration to the environmental impacts of rapid urbanization.

According to the press note released by the Centre for Science & Environment (CSE), unregulated urbanization and climate change-induced extreme weather are the reasons behind the crisis in Chennai. It further states that rapid urbanization leads to the destruction of natural drainage systems, thus increasing their vulnerability to flooding.

CSE Director General Sunita Narain said: “In Chennai, each of its lakes has a natural flood discharge channel which drains the spillover. But we have built over many of these water bodies, blocking the smooth flow of water. We have forgotten the art of drainage. We only see land for buildings, not for water.”

Thus, the CSE press note clearly links the Chennai flood situation with the disappearing of natural water bodies, which in turn is caused due to urbanization.

Natural water bodies play a very significant role in not only fulfilling human needs for water but also in keeping ecological balance. Urban water bodies, be it lakes or tanks, supply water for various domestic and industrial activities. The tank water also penetrates through the soil and recharge the groundwater. They are the major sources of fresh drinking water. And lastly, as they link to rivers and canals, they help to carry excess water during heavy rains.

But, in the absence of these tanks and lakes that act as a natural drainage system, the runoff water from the rains have no place to go, thus causing flooding of the cities. Further, lack of water tanks results in the scarcity of fresh water.

Rapid urbanization with complete disregard for ecological concerns is the single most important factor that has resulted in the disappearance of water tanks.

Consider the case of Chennai, in the 19th century, the Madras area had at least 43,000 functioning water tanks. Just two decades ago, there were at least 650 water bodies. But, today only a fraction (less than 30) of them remains.

The situation is more or less similar in other cities as well. Bengaluru had around 262 water bodies in 1960. But, today there are only 81, out of which only 34 can be recognized as live lakes. Ahmedabad had 137 lakes a decade ago out of which 65 lakes have already been built over. In Delhi, a survey last year identified 611 water bodies, out of which 274 already dried up and another 190 that cannot be revived.

This rapid depletion of water bodies is being caused due to various urbanization activities like drying of tanks for constructing buildings, encroachment of dried tank lands, deforestation that results in loosening of soil, dumping of garbage, sewage, and industrial wastes, and growing of weeds that makes the water tanks useless.

Thus, Narain comments: “If you ask the obvious question of how construction was permitted on the wetland, you will get a not-so-obvious response: Wetlands are rarely recorded under municipal land laws, so nobody knows about them. Planners see only land, not water and greedy builders take over.”

Hence, unless and until the state governments, city corporations, planners are not sensitized towards the environmental aspects of the issue; greedy builders are not restrained, and environmental rules and regulations are not strictly implemented, Indian cities and other urban centers will continue to be exposed to severe natural calamities.

(Photo: liveonindia.com)