ISSUE BRIEF No. 4

Drought Relief: Harnessing Native Genius for Water Storage

Droughts draw attention to failure of government supply programmes. With each passing year the severity of the water crisis worsens. At fault is an engineering-heavy, centralised approach that ignores a basic fact about water – its use is distributed across diverse terrain and so it makes sense for the resource to be conserved locally. Large schemes channelling water over long distances are expensive, wasteful and lead to conflicts. This Issue Brief explores alternatives that rely on government or NGO interventions to augment local water resources. A key outcome of involving people in finding community-based solutions is that overtime they gain the confidence and expertise to manage their water resources. The Issue Brief argues for a paradigm shift in water management away from the large to the small that can be owned and managed by the people who use the water. It draws from successful examples of Indian local initiatives in water management in Kerala, pre-bifurcation Andhra Pradesh, and Rajasthan. Such models, the author says, could be scaled up rapidly with local adaptations, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, with specific roles for governments, civil society, and industry.

Droughts draw attention to failure of government supply programmes. With each passing year the severity of the water crisis worsens. At fault is an engineering-heavy, centralised approach that ignores a basic fact about water – its use is distributed across diverse terrain and so it makes sense for the resource to be conserved locally. Large schemes channelling water over long distances are expensive, wasteful and lead to conflicts.

This Issue Brief explores alternatives that rely on government or NGO interventions to augment local water resources. A key outcome of involving people in finding community-based solutions is that over time they gain the confidence and expertise to manage their water resources. The Issue Brief argues for a paradigm shift in water management away from the large to the small that can be owned and managed by the people who use the water. It draws from successful examples of Indian local initiatives in water management in Kerala, pre-bifurcation Andhra Pradesh, and Rajasthan. Such models, the author says, could be scaled up rapidly with local adaptations, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, with specific roles for governments, civil society, and industry.

The author can be contacted at [email protected]

Photo on title page: Tribal women delicately balancing pots set out on a long trek to fetch water from a well at Padmapuram village in Araku, 120 k.m. from Visakhapatnam. File Photo: K.R. Deepak. Copyright: The Hindu.



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