Narmada River

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Narmada is one of the 3 main rivers in India that flows westwards into the Arabian Sea, the other two being Tapti and Mahi. It is the fifth largest river in the Indian sub-continent and the third largest of the rivers flowing entirely within India.

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Narmada River

Narmada has its source at the Narmada Kund of the Amarkantak Plateau of the Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh, and flows through Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The river flows for 1300 kms, before draining into Arabian Sea.

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Narmada Kund, Amarkantak

One of the specialties of this river is that it flows through a rift valley, between the Vindhya and Satpura range. It is also one of those major rivers that doesn’t form any delta.

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Narmada flowing through Rift valley

Narmada –names, legends and importance

Narmada means “that which gives pleasure”. It is also known as Rewa, meaning, “swift”, due to the swiftness of its water currents.

Narmada and Adi Shankara

Adi Shankara once calmed the raging waters of Narmada River, using his kamandalu, to save his Guru Govinda Bhagavatpada, who was immersed in dhyana, meditation at a cave nearby.

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Adi Shankara calming the waters of Narmada

Narmada Ashtakam

Adi Shankara glorifies Narmada in the Narmada Ashtakam, which he composed in the glory of Narmada Devi. The opening verse of this hymn reads,

Sa-Bindu-Sindhu-Suskhalat-Tarangga-Bhangga-Ran.jitam
Dvissatsu Paapa-Jaata-Jaata-Kaari-Vaari-Samyutam |
Krtaanta-Duuta-Kaala-Bhuuta-Bhiiti-Haari-Varma-De
Tvadiiya-Paada-Pangkajam Namaami Devi Narmade ||1||

English Meaning:

Salutations to Devi Narmada whose River-body illumined with Sacred drops of Water, flows with mischievous playfulness, bending with Waves.

Your Sacred Water has the divine power to transform those who are prone to Hatred, the Hatred born of Sins,

You put an end to the fear of the messenger of Death by giving Your protective Armour (of Refuge),
O Devi Narmada, I Bow down to Your Lotus Feet, Please give me Your Refuge.

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Narmada Devi

Daughter of Rishi Mekla

In Purana, Narmada is mentioned as the daughter of Rishi Mekla, who lived and meditated at the foothills of Vindhya Mountains. Hence Narmada also has the name Mekalaa and Mekalakanya. The are other legends which point to Mekala being the mountain from where Narmada rises.

Life Line of Madhya Pradesh

The river is today known as the “life line of Madhya Pradesh” on account of its major contribution to the state.

One of the 7 holy rivers

In the Indian tradition, Narmada is of the 7 holy rivers, the others being Ganga, Yamuna, Sindhu, Kaveri, Sarasvati and Godavari. The ancient Indian texts like the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Purana talk about this river. Like the Ganga, river Narmada is worshipped as a deity – Narmada Devi. The Vayu and Skanda Purana speak about the origin of this river in detail.

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The connect with the Trinity

As per one legend, Narmada has her origin from the sweat of Lord Shiva, and is therefore also known as Shankari. Another legend states that the river was born from the tear drop of Lord Brahma. These legends also state that Narmada is older than the Ganga.

The Omkareshwar Jyothirlinga is located on the banks of Narmada River, at the Khandava district of Madhya Pradesh.

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  Narmada at Omkareshwar                                      Omkareshwar Jyothirlinga

The resting place of Lord Shiva

Padma Purana states that Lord Shiva rested on the banks of River Narmada, before proceeding on his mission of vanquishing the Tripuras, the three aerial cities of the Asuras. The pebbles on the banks of Narmada are thus regarded to be highly sacred and are worshipped as lingam. These pebbled are known as Banalinga and are sought after for worship.

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Natural Narmada Banalinga

One of the biggest of these Banalinga has been installed in the Brihadeeshvara temple, at Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu.

The battleground of Indra and Vrtra

The Bhagavata Purana states that the battle between Indra and Vrtra, happened on the banks of Narmada River.

In Ramayana

In the Ramayana, it is mentioned that King Kartivirya Arjuna once picnicked with his wives on the banks of Narmada. Ravana also comes here at the same time, and in a battle between Ravana and Kartivirya, the former is humbled.

In the search for Sita, Sugreeva asks his Vanara army to conduct a search amongst the Vindhya mountains, where the Narmada river flows.

Pushkaram – The traditional festival

A festival, Narmada Pushakaram is held every 12 years here, in worship of River Narmada, and lasts for 12 days.

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Narmada Pushakaram

Narmada Basin

The Narmada basin covers a large area and is located between Vindhya and Satpura ranges, in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra and Telangana. It has one of the oldest teak hardwood forest in India. The Narmada eco region is home to 76 species of mammals and 276 species of birds.

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Narmada Basin

Bhimbetka rocks

The Bhimbetka rock shelters in the Narmada valley, in Madhya Pradesh contain many ancient paintings, that are 30000 years old. These 243 rock shelters at Bhimbetka have been declared as World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.

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Bhimbetka rock shelters

Archaeologist have found evidence of Harappa settlements on the banks of Narmada. One of the excavated sites is located at Navadatoli on the south bank of the river, which has remnants of the earlier civilization. Another one was excavated at Mehtakhedi village, in Narmada Valley, Madhya Pradesh.

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An ancient archaeological remains discovered at Narmada Valley

Bharuch

Bharuch is a sacred city located on the mouth of Narmada, and its name is derived from the great Rishi Brigu, the city’s original name being Brigukaccha. Rishi Brigu’s ashram was located on the banks of river Narmada.

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Bharuch, location

As per the Purana, Rishi Brigu is one of the ten sons of Lord Brahma. Many Rishi like Markandeya, Shukracharya, Jamadagni belonged to the lineage of Rishi Brigu. Lord Parasurama was born in the 7th generation this Rishi.

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Rishi Brigu

As per the Skanda Purana, 55 tirtha Sthal, are located along the Narmada River. Bharuch is also a Jain tirtha Sthal.

Today, just like other rivers, pollution has affected Narmada. On December 11th, 2016, the Madhya Pradesh government launched the Narmada Seva Yatra to turn the river pollution free. It sought to create awareness about the conservation of the river.

Narmada is one of the major rivers in this country that has shaped the culture and tradition of this civilization, apart from support life for many a millennia. We need to preserve it, so that it continues to sanctify us for many more millennia.

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Foodprint to Footprint

Water And Food

June to September are the months when South and South East Asia get their monsoon rains.

The word “monsoon” comes from the Arabic word, “Mawsin”, meaning weather, which is why we have the word “Mausam” in Hindi for weather.  Here, the weather turns to rainy season.

It is the rain that gives us Pushkaram, fertility which is why every temple tank is called as Pushkarni, that land which gives us fertility.

The purpose of this rain, the harnessing of these waters and creating fertility is to make food for humans, for animals, for plants and for the earth as a whole. For food, is the basic platform, annamaya kosha, on which life is built for all living beings. Different beings take to different foods based on availability, biological needs, suitability, taste and other such factors. Producing this food also needs water. Foods cannot be grown without enormous quantity of water. When we think of our needs of water, we think of only our daily ablutions and our drinking water needs.

We normally think of the few litres of water that we drink in a day. Have we ever thought how much water is required to make the fruit that is served in our plate?

Water Consumption

We hardly think of the quantum of water that is needed which goes behind food production. Infact over 80% of the water that is used on the surface of this earth is for agriculture and other type of food production. Only about 10% is needed for industry and the balance 10% is for domestic and other uses. Infact domestic usage is a very small quantity.

Water consumption

The average consumption of direct water per person, per day is 3 litres.

Food Consumption

To grow the amount of food that an average person consumes for lunch or dinner, 700 litres is required per meal. The chart here gives us the water needed to grow our food.

Water for food1

Here we see that the real consumption of water is in food production, agriculture. We see that for agriculture itself it is so much.

In the case of livestock, meat production, the need of water is manifolds times more because these animals also have to consume water, air, food for all their lives. At, the end of it, they offer only few kilos of meat.

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Water needed to produce Food

Beverages

1 litre of beer 300 litres of water
1 ltrs wine 872 litres of water
1 cup of coffee 140 litres of water
1 litre of milk 800 litres of water

Vegetarian

1 kilo of rice 3600 litres of water
1 kilo of wheat 1375 litres
1 kilo toor dal 1400 litres of water

Non Vegetarian

1 kilo of chicken 4325 litres
1 kilo Mutton 5520 litres
1 kilo Beef meat 13000 litres

Veg vs Non Veg

Daily average consumption of water by a vegetarian eater is 2500 litres where as for a non vegetarian eater is 8000 litres per day.

This insight into how much water is needed for a vegetarian meal as opposed to a non vegetarian meal clearly highlights to us as to which is more eco friendly.

With the world facing increasing water shortage that has come about due to the unsustainable practices of man rather than reduced rainfall, the only sustainable way of sharing the available limited quantum of water, the prudent option and a scientific one, is to be a vegetarian by choice.

That is the only way we can reduce our ecological footprint and leave the planet more sustainable for generations to come.

Consumerism to Conservation

Ecological footprint is what we use up, consume from our environment around us during our brief stay on this earth. It is the strain that we put forth on the resources of mother earth.

Ecological footprint

The generation next is talking about ecological footprint as the new buzz word but do their eating habits show their concern for the ecology?

For eating is what we do 3-4 times a day and that is by far the  largest foot print that we leave or rather erase from this earth.

If we and our generation next have to survive, then the planet has to survive this phase of consumerism. This can happen only with a mind shift from consumerism to conservation. Conservation of Foodprints, Conservation of Footprints; it is saving water, conserving water, minimal usage of water. Moving from non- vegetarianism to vegetarianism is one of the key ways that we can contribute to this effort, four times a day, every day of our lives.

Taxing Time – The Way forward?

Smoking

In the last couple of decades we have come to realize that smoking is injurious to health not just to the smoker’s health but as well as to friends colleagues and family around who have been termed as passive smokers. So, to reduce the habit of smoking, governments now levy additional tax on cigarettes and tobacco product to dissuade people from smoking, to make the environment cleaner and healthier.

Liquor

Consumption of liquor is also a problem the world over. Excess liquor not only damages the liver of a person but also their lives. It affects the family as a whole and causes other collateral damages like road accidents, improper behavior towards woman, being uncouth. Recognizing this, the governments the world over have started levying additional taxes on liquor to put liquor out of reach for many. There are states where there is prohibition on liquor consumption.

Non Vegetarian Food

Through this article and by a series of others by other writers, it is becoming more apparent that consumption of non vegetarian food is making our environment unsustainable. It is evident that non vegetarian food eaters consume more of the ecological resources and leave behind a larger footprint than their vegetarian fellow beings.

Recognizing the extra strain that non vegetarianism is placing on the environment, the next step that the government should do is to impose additional tax on non vegetarian food so that vegetarians don’t have to bear the folly of others.

The additional tax could well be used to rejuvenate the environment and restore it to a sustainable state. Also, it would educate and motivate people to migrate from non vegetarianism to vegetarianism to make this world , our home, a sustainable one in the long run.

Eat Right & Be Merry

After taxing times come celebrations. Celebrations invoke the image of Carnivals.

Carnivals

A Carnival is a festival where all enjoy with merriment. The very word “carnival” conjures up images of rides, pageants, colorful decorations, unending food and flowing liquor.

merry go round carousel carnival ride

Let us step back and look at the context in which this word “carnival” came to be. Its origins could be “Carne Vale” or “Carne Levare” which means “the act of abstaining from consumption of meat”. The word “Carne” is the root for words such as “carnal” denoting flesh and “carnivorous” for meat eating animals.

Such a practice does exist in many societies of Europe during the annual Lent period, a period when meat is strictly abstained from.

The Merry Goes Round

From then, to now, Carnival has become a festival where meat consumption is very high. What an interesting turnaround? A 180 degree turn from “Carne Vale”, “abstaining from meat” to becoming “Carnivorous”!

This shift has occurred between the medieval period to present times.

Is it not time now for another 180 degrees shift from the present to the future? From Non Vegetarianism to Vegetarianism?

A shift to celebrating, living without meat, for, life is a celebration – a sustained celebration if we know how to celebrate it responsibly.

June – What shall we celebrate this month?

June is a month when there are no major festivals in India.

Why is it so?

June is the month when we have the onset of monsoon all over India. It generally sets in around the 1st of June in Kerala and by the end of June, slowly, steadily and gradually spreads all over India.

India with cloud

 We all know that, from time immemorial, India has been an agrarian society and what is important for such an agrarian society relying on agriculture, to survive, to prosper?

Water!

Water for agriculture in India is mainly provided by the monsoon rains. If there are major festivals in this month when the monsoon starts, then the attention of the people will be diverted towards the festival, instead of harnessing the water when it rains and diverting the water towards their fields.

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If there are no festivals, then all their attention will be towards, sowing the seeds, transplanting them when they are big enough to be transplanted, spaced about correctly for them to grow as healthy plants and removing the weeds as the crops grow so that the young plants get all the nourishment and water for them to grow.

Sowing of rice

This work is a time bound activity and has to be completed within a short time window so that the crops get the required amounts of water at the right stage of their growth and the monsoon is leveraged properly.

This activity therefore requires the whole family, male and female, elders and youngsters, to be involved whole heartedly. All hands at the field!

Given this fact of nature, its timing and the need of the society, an agricultural economy, isn’t it wonderful that this phase of the year in India, has been kept devoid of festivals, so that people can focus on work – agriculture.

To make this work a joy and fun, the farmers in India used to celebrate work in the form of the sowing festival. Songs were sung as they sowed and planted the seedlings. The fields would come alive with a riot of colours and music as the women descended into the fields, against the backdrop of a cloudy sky. This festival is celebrated in a very few parts of India today but continues to be celebrated with fervour in many other parts of Asia even today.

This month in the Indian calendar, is known as Jyeshta in Hindi and Aani in the Tamil calendar.

From all this, it is obvious that the festivals of India are designed in such a way, keeping in mind the agrarian society and its needs. The festivals were not randomly celebrated but were in sync with nature and the society.

Given this understanding, there is one very important astronomic event happening every year, year after year, in the month of June. This event among other events is a time marker and affects us in our daily life. What is this event?

As we know, the earth is tilted on its axis by 23.4 degrees. Because of this tilt and the revolution of the earth around the sun, we perceive the sun to be moving northwards and southwards between the 2 lattitudes, Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, successively, in its annual six monthly journey each way.

On June 21st of every year, our sun reaches the northern end of its journey at the Tropic of Cancer and transits into its journey southwards towards the tropic of Capricorn. The northern journey of the sun is known Uttarayan, Uttar meaning north and the Southern Journey is called Dakshinayan, Dakshin meaning southward.

21st June is the day the sun reaches the northern most point of its journey and is “still’ on that day at the Tropic of Cancer. It is called the Summer Solstice.

summer solstice

For the people living in the northern hemisphere this consequently happens to be the longest day of the year. It is the mid summer day. A month before and after this day is peak summer in the northern hemisphere. This season in Indian languages is known as Greeshma Rthu, Greeshma meaning warm or hot. That is why we have the Hindi word ‘garam’ for hot.

Rthu means season. The flow of seasons happens repeatedly without fail every year, year after year, come what may, June after May, come rain or shine. That is why it is called rthu.

The root word for Rthu is Rtha, from which also comes the English word rhythm.

Seasons are a rhythmic flow that happen regularly every year without fail. This understanding of how the earth revolves around the sun in a rhythmic manner giving rise to the rhythmic movements of the sun across the sky, creating seasons for us, led to the design of the calendar and the festivals of India embedded, woven in sync with our culture, society and civilization, in this ancient and continuously lived in land. Festivals, of India are in rhythm and in sync with Nature.

Everything in our body, our lives, our festivals, our activities are in rhythm with ourselves, our livelihood, our societies, our earth, our sun and the cosmos.

This month of June, when there are no major festivals, reminds us of this rhythm and gives us an opportunity to celebrate this understanding of every society having to be in tune with nature’s rhythm.

So, in June, let us celebrate all that the monsoons augur.

Summer – Virtually No Water

World Water Day

In the Northern hemisphere, months of April, May, June mean summer. At the peak of summer, most lands look parched and dry. People await the rains for relief from sweltering heat.

Availability of water in summer becomes a problem in different parts of the globe. Perhaps, as a warning of this oncoming problem, the world observes World Water Day on March 22nd every year.

The Stark Reality, Water – a Finite Resource

Water is a renewable resource. At the same time, it is not an infinite but a finite resource.

The amount of water available globally, while it seems large, is in fact very limited, for nearly 98 % of the water on earth is in the form of water in the seas and oceans, as salt water. This water is not useful for industry, agriculture or for animals and humans.

Trying to harness this brackish sea water through the modern reverse osmosis process is not only capital intensive and costly but the annual operations and maintenance costs are prohibitive too. That puts almost 98% of water on earth, out of our reach.

Given this scenario we have to depend on the balance little over 2% water for our water resources.

A substantial portion of this 2% fresh water is locked up as ice in the 2 poles, the ice caps on snow covered mountains and the heavy glaciers in them.  They form about 1.725 % of the total water on earth.

So, what is left as flowing fresh water, is hardly 0.025 % of all the water in the world.

water-on-world

 Flowing fresh water is thus not infinite, but finite and very miniscule.

Human population on the other hand has been growing steadily, adding about one billion to its population every few decades.

overpopulation-problem

This means that the same quantity of water has to be shared by a billion more people every 10 years, which means that there is going to be less and less water for each individual, for their needs of life, as the years roll by.

Farming, a Water Guzzler?

The major needs of water for life are not for drinking, bathing and washing, but the major consumption of water is for growing the food we eat.

Hence many tend to classify farming as a water guzzler. Many city dwellers are also under the impression that animal products may be a viable alternative to growing food during water shortage.

Is that really so?

The Reality

1 Kilo of grain, be it rice, wheat, pulses, cereal, needs about 1500 liters of water. That is indeed a high volume of water needed to grow grains.

In comparison, to create 1 kilo of meat, approximately 15000 liters of water are calculated to be required. So, growing live stock for meat is actually 10 times more water intensive than growing grains for food.

This is a bigger water guzzling reality.

 water for veg and non veg

 

 Vegetarianism – A Need, Not Choice Any More

If earth has to be sustainable and water resources have to be judiciously handled for the burgeoning population, then it becomes not a choice, but a necessity, that we move away from being a meat eating population to vegetarianism, so that 9/10th of the fresh water currenly lost on growing live stocks just for human consumption, is made available once again for human needs.

Is It Only Food Wastage?

What is even more worrying to observe, is the atrocious wastage of the food that has been produced using this limited, precious water.

It is estimated that about 30% of all the food that is produced is wasted.

Just imagine the amount of manual effort, land use and other resources that had gone into the production of this food for consumption. Think of the amount of the precious water that has gone into producing these foods, which literally goes down the drain when the food is wasted.

Virtual Water

The water that goes into the production of food is now called by the term “virtual water” of the product.

In today’s world economy, there is free trade of food from one region to another.  With newer technologies to keep food produce fresh during transport and genetic modifications to give them a longer shelf life and world appeal, we have now transcended the bounds of seasons, climates, geography and topology.

Non seasonal and non local foods have therefore found their way into local reach thus encouraging some regions of the world to produce in excess of their local consumption needs, so that it can be exported for more gains, to other regions of the world where this product is in demand.

Along with the produce, since there is also a virtual transfer of the water that has gone into the making of the produce, there is also a “virtual water trade” happening along with every trade of produce.

Trade Compensation

Producers get paid for their produce.

Exporters get paid for their handling.

The nation receives foreign exchange.

But what about the “virtual water” that has gone into the growing of the produce and has been traded with?

Has the land been compensated enough for the depletion of this virtual water?

Will the monies received, be able to reproduce water in excess of the finite limit of fresh water that falls on a land?

Who is to compensate for this loss in Nature? Does it really matter to us?

This question gains further significance in the context of the current, lopsided, world economy and trade.

A Manmade Global Imbalance

A careful look at trends around the world will show that most of the water intensive produce of the world is produced in and exported from the developing and underdeveloped countries of the world. Typically the countries in the tropical belt which receive more rain and shine.

These countries send out their finite amount of fresh water as “virtual water” in their product exports on one hand and complain of shortage of water on the other hand to meet the direct needs of water. They finally end up borrowing from the developed nations to find solutions for their water shortage problems, little realizing how it is being created in the first place.

As a global community, we need to become aware of this virtual truth, of an imbalance being created by mankind in the last few centuries.

A Natural Balance

Our ancients seem not to have encountered such an issue. Could be because of their prudent way of living, guided by the rhythm of seasons, climates and topology.

Humans and animals consumed locally produced seasonal products – those that were adapted to be produced in their local topology, those that could be produced in that season, for their climatic conditions.

This not only kept them fit and healthy for their local conditions but also did not put undue stress on their finite amount of local water, inorder to produce locally for the entire world.

Reflecting on Virtual Water

H&HAtEuphratesRiver

The overall amount of water on this earth has not changed. This earth has in the last many millennia sustained its population of people, animal life and plant life with these finite water resources. We the humans have made this free natural resource into a trading commodity in the last few decades.

How long will this help sustain the modern, commercial times that we live in?

Divine Nature has ordained us to enjoy free life, fresh water and pure air.

Are we in our pursuit of satiating our taste buds with alien foods and in our greed for monetary wealth, creating imbalances in our minds, body and Nature?

World over, mankind has to pause and think,

“Do we all really need global food at our local kitchens, at the price we are all really having to pay for it?”

A Wholistic Perspective On Water Harnessing

Tamil Nadu, save for a few regions, does not receive much rain from the SouthWest monsoon which is the main monsoon of India. Tamil Nadu receives its rains mainly from the North East monsoon which is less copious.

 During the whole season, it rains for only 15 to 20 days in a year, which means about only 100 hours of rain and this has to be used for the remaining 8660 hours of the year. This scenario has led to the popular belief that Tamil Nadu is rainfall deficient and hence water deficient.

 But this has been the rainfall scene for thousands of years.

 While the modern generation looks at this land as being rainfall and water deficient, even till as recently as 150 years ago, the people of Tamil Nadu seem to have enjoyed great prosperity and culture, which can come only when there is sufficient water in this land for its people, flora and fauna.

 The people of Tamil Nadu had realized that this land is on the leeward side of the Western Ghat. The gradient of the land was sloping from west to east, draining into the Bay of Bengal.

 Recognizing this topography, they built Eri, tanks, dotting all over the landscape to harness the rains where its falls and pass it on to places where it did not rain. It was an ingenious, intricate web, a chain of tanks – system tanks, Eri, Oorani, Anaikat and a whole host of local water harnessing systems, which were interconnected. The rivers and their distributaries were the arteries. The principle behind it was the heart of sharing.

 If it rained anywhere in the Carnatic region, all the tanks downstream would also receive water. Finally, if the water was let out from the Sri Vaikuntam Eri in southernend of Tamil Nadu, near Tirunelvelli, to the sea, it meant that all the Eri of the Carnatic land were brim full by then.

 These Eri and the web, were all built by the locals themselves during the Pallava period, from 400 CE to 1100 CE. These have since then sustained the land and made it prosperous for the next thousand years and more. These were all people designed and people maintained.

 It was after the 1857 war of Independence that the British administrators decided to wrest control of the water bodies from the local people.

 To this effect, a Public Works Act of 1857 was promulgated and the Public Works Department (PWD) was created to control the water bodies of the land. This passed the control of the water bodies from the people to the government which soon led to the dereliction in their maintenance and eventual disrepair.  Soon the people of Tamil Nadu were deprived of their life supporting Eri and therein, rests the tale of the water shortage of Tamil Nadu.

 A perspective of this is discussed in our article on solution to the Cauvery Water Issue.

 The Tamil Nadu State Legislative Assembly passed the Farmers Management of Irrigation Systems Act 2001 which is a step in the right direction of giving back the control of the water bodies back to the farmers.

 Today, there is a renewed energy in the youth to revive the tanks in disrepair in their local areas. While this is a good step in restoring ground water in that region, this stand alone tank will be of no avail when that region does not receive its due rains in any year.

 The complete solution lies in reviving the connecting ducts between these tanks as well as reviving the entire web, the Chain Tank system, so that irrespective of wherever it rains in the Carnatic region, the Eri of every village of this region is always full. Not a trivial task. It is a challenge indeed, in terms of plan, effort and cost.

 A possible way out for the overall revival is discussed in detail in our book You Turn India in the Bharath Gyan series.

Future of Cauvery water sharing lies in our past

Politicians of the day have made it seem like that the dispute over Cauvery water sharing is a conflict without a solution. They have been so successful in this that today farmers of the riparian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu believe there is no life for them without Cauvery waters and hence are  willing to stake their life for the cause.

In reality, this is yet another example of how a short-sighted vision can complicate matters for one and all. There can be, and there is, a prosperous life for farmers of the riparian states beyond Cauvery waters. The concept of water sharing in India, is as old as the early civilization of the land. History stands testimony to this.

The sharing of waters went on without any noticeable acrimony till the 1960s. Till then, there existed arrangements among people which ensured that what was available was shared amicably among the riparian states in an equitable manner. One such arrangement was a formal agreement entered into in 1860 between the Mysore Maharaja Government and the Madras Presidency, under British administration for how the waters of the Cauvery would be shared for the next 100 years. In 1960, this 100-year agreement came to an end but was not renewed by those in power.

But more than such agreements, what had ensured a harmonious sharing was the fact that both these states did not solely depend upon River Cauvery for their water needs. They had a decentralized form of water harnessing called the Chain Tank System, which met their water needs. The Cauvery was only a supplementary source to the Chain Tank System. However, in the last 50 years of modern development, both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have neglected the decentralized form of water harnessing, the Chain Tank System, which was a sustainable form of water replenishing.

The Chain Tank system of the Carnatic was conceived and built about 1500 years ago, around 500 CE to 900 CE. It was built on the leeward side of the Western Ghats taking into cognizance the gradient of the land, sloping towards the Bay of Bengal. This region was known as the Carnatic.

Every village in this region had tanks which formed part of a Chain Tank System. The tanks were called Kere in Karnataka, Eri in Tamil Nadu and Cheruvu in Andhra Pradesh. In a chain, the Kere, Eri and Cheruvu of every village was linked to the other, right from the Western Ghats to Bay of Bengal. Rain waters were collected and stored in these local tanks as and when the rains came. Once a tank filled up, the overflow was channelled to the next in the gradient. The water thus collected flowed through every village of the Carnatic, from the slopes of the Western Ghats to the Bay of Bengal. This chain of tanks ensured that every village in this region got water irrespective of whether it had rained there or not.

This Chain Tank was decentralized and did not depend only on Cauvery waters. Just as the river Cauvery uses the gradient to flow from Western Ghats, the Chain Tank system too used the same gradient of land. Cauvery was an arterial river in this web of feeder and distribution canals.

The ingenuity lies in how the rain water was harnessed in this land across generations, ensuring prosperity to the land for thousands of years.

However, in the last 50 years of modern development, this Chain Tank System has become defunct. The decentralized approach which was the back bone of the Agrarian society has been replaced by a centralized approach of solely depending on Cauvery for both agriculture and industries as well as for water table management. This has created an unnecessary strain on the water resources.

Though there exists a web of feeder canals to and from the Cauvery and the Chain Tanks, they are blocked with silt owing to lack of maintenance over the last seven decades. Making them functional again will create a situation for balancing water between the Chain Tank and the river.

Water sharing agreements, however satisfying they may be, only address rainy season needs. The real sustainable solution lies  in making the decentralized system of water harnessing using the Chain Tank System, functional again. This system can harness the water when it rains, where it rains and make it available to the people when they need it, in every nook and corner of the land. The surplus waters from this system, which will be in plenty when the system functions, can be shared with the rivers like Cauvery of this region. The excess from the rivers such as Cauvery, when in spate can also be shared with the Chain Tanks, thus balancing the water flows. This will ensure that seasonal floods and droughts are avoided.

As a civilized society, if we can restore what our ancestors had created for us, we can again be prosperous and harmonious for centuries to come.

Ideally, the acrimony over scarce Cauvery waters should have pushed modern-day politicians and administrators to clever ways of harnessing waters. Sadly, it has been long used as a political tool. In reality a solution to this vexed problem in not so far away. It is just a few decades back in the past.

(The authors are the founders of  Bharath Gyan, a Knowledge Foundation. More on their work can be found at http://www.bharathgyan.com)