The Nilgiris Water

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Use and Misuse of Water

 Water Issues :

Besides crop change over, regular harvest/logging increases soil erosion, large scale destruction of forests and marshes in the middle and lower zones for tea and vegetables respectively, also seems to have reduced rainfall dramatically in the district. (Reference: Project Appraisal Report of the Kundah & Lower Bhavani River Valley Project, 96-97 by Agricultural Engineering Department, Chennai). The change in land use from rain-fed agricultural crops to plantation crops requiring irrigation has also increased demand for irrigation, placing a widespread pressure on natural water sources. This change has caused severe erosion in the region, also affecting the low lying lands of indigenous communities.

Water Pollution :

The increase in tea cultivation and commercial vegetable growing has also led to the increase in the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides. Some of these harmful chemicals have negatively affected the soil and water regime, percolating into the water sources. The water when used by indigenous communities for drinking purposes, has increased skin and water borne diseases.

Water Use and Management :

There are a number of users of water in the Nilgiris. The Electricity Board, Plantation sector, Tourism industry, Agriculture & Horticulture sector are the main users. With a number of dams, weirs and tunnels - water is a managed resource in the hills. However, there are few points of water access for villages and especially indigenous communities. People have to resort to dug wells and springs for water. The water from the dams, both Pykara and Bhavani feed into the Metur Reservoir and is distributed in the Cauvery River Basin for irrigation. This has raised questions for local farmers and communities - as to why they do not have access to water from the district. eg. The village of Kallampalayam is located on the banks of the River Moyar, but does not have access to water for irrigation. Local measures need to be taken, to resolve this conflict.

Changing Culture of Water Use & Tradition: Nilgiris is a land of a myriad number of tribal groups and local ethnic communities. Some of them, like the Badagas, have a cohesive village governance and resource sharing system. Communities like the pastoral Todas, had traditional pasturages, based on the availability of water. Other hunter gatherer communities that were forest dwellers, moved their villages due to the invasion of wild animals. New sites were chosen depending on the water availability. Dug wells (Baavi) and protected springs (jo: ni), were treated with care and kept clean.

However, now these traditions are fast disappearing. People who could earlier manage their resource now look for government schemes and doled out benefits. There is also a change in their outlook from what was considered their own resource to that which belongs to the Government. There are no institutional systems in place to look after these government schemes, which sometimes lie in disuse or create conflict within the village.

Posted by: keystone       Category: NHW Home > Nilgiri Water Resources       Updated: 2007-03-07 08:57:38


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