Private organisations working in tank irrigation

Tanks are common properties used for irrigation and other multiple uses by rural communities in most parts of India. In south India tanks are the properties owned by the  ‘state’. In legal terms who represents the ‘state’ in a court is difficult to say, however the convention is that the revenue department represented by its Principal secretary or the Commissioner attends as the ‘owner’ in any proceedings in a court. The tanks are ‘transferred’ by the state to Public Works Department of the Water Resources Organisations and the Panchayats ‘only for maintenance and management functions’. This arrangement is ever since the Panchayat laws that came into force in India as early as 1920.

Therefore, tank irrigation remained in the domain of the government through the Public Works Department and the nonexistent Panchayats. However, since early 1990 many private organisations came into working with the tanks helping farmers dependant on tanks. One of the earliest organisation,  that has dedicated teams and professionals to work in tank irrigation is DHAN Foundation.

Visit DHAN Foundation’s  programmes and projects for more details.

Some additional journalistic information about them is here.

In the recent years many organisations are contracted by World Bank projects aiming at development of tanks in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu.


Neerkatti: The Traditional Water Manager

Tank systems are not only engineering systems but also a management system. As like as the engineering aspects of the tanks management systems are also elaborate. One component of the management is the managers who are called Neerkatti, Neeranikkan,Neerghanti, Kambukatti in different parts of south India.  Their existence is claimed to be dating back to 7 th century A.D as evidenced from the epigraphic inscriptions found in many parts of Tamilnadu.

Each tank had one or more such water managers called Neerkattis. There are no accurate estimates as to how many Neerkatti would have been involved in such tank management functions. There are an estimated number of around 4,000 Neerkattis work in Gundar Basin which constitutes around 4.3 % of the Geographical area of Tamilnadu. The particular basin is one of the dry areas measuring around 5,500sq km of geographical area with around 2,500 small and big tanks. They are still working in the tanks providing irrigation and other services for the dependent communities.

A reasonable guess would be that the state of Tamilnadu may have around 100,000 Neerkattis involved in the water management functions.The Neerkattis had several functions to perform ranging from supply of water to every farmer at the farm level to safeguarding the tank structures from all natural and man-made calamities.

Download or read the full document that presents a set of case studies.

Vision for Village Tanks

What is the present status and desired future for the tank systems are discussed in this document. The document is a detailed exercise conducted across different places in the state of Tamilnadu. All stakeholders including the farmers, government officers, project managers dealing with tank irrigation and public were involved in the process. The problems related to the tank systems and the dependant farmers differ in scale however they remain almost same.

Download or Read the document.