Traditional water harvesting (tank) systems are integral to agricultural development and livelihoods of rural communities in India. Despite the fact that these systems provide number of services (drinking water, protective irrigation, etc.,), their importance and contribution declined during the post-independence India. Population pressure along with poor maintenance have led to their deterioration. For instance, the number tanks not in use has doubled between 2000-01 and 2010-11. The share of tank irrigation in to total irrigation in India declined from 17% to 2.5% between 1950-51 and 2014-15. Realising the multiple benefits from theses traditional systems, tank rehabilitation has been one of the policy priorities at the central as well as in some States.This paper is a review of experiences on tank systems and their rehabilitation across the regions of India. The idea is to explore the variations in tank systems across the regions and identify specific approaches for strengthening and promoting them. Tank uses, benefits, users or stakeholders differ from region to region. Hence, the priorities may not be same in all the regions.The evidence across the regions indicates that the benefits from tank rehabilitation outweigh the costs. It is argued that scaling up of tank rehabilitation at the national and state level is critical for providing substantial benefits to the local communities. While the policy initiatives to restore irrigation tanks are rational, the interventions need to be based on the changing conditions in terms of groundwater development and climate variability in the specific regions.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.