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A Indian Irrigation Potential Strategies

Irrigation Development in India

Dr. A.M. Michael

First Century A.D. to Middle of 20th Century

Irrigation development in India in the first to third century A.D. has been mainly in Southern India which was not influenced by the cultural ingression of tribes from central Asia. The Sangam Literature gives detailed description of the Tamil dynasties of pandya, chera, chola, pallaya, chalukya and Rastitrakuta and their contribution to development projects. Kings of these dynasties took great interest in prom ting agriculture. Situated in the detaic or valley regions, most of these kingdoms had fertile soil. With the expansion of irrigated agriculture, South India became the rice bowl of India. Sangam literature gives descriptions of the sites chosen for storing run-off water. Both tank and well irrigation were in practice in South India. There are distinct references to 'lift irrigation', where bullocks were used for lifting water from deep wells. An important irrigation work has been the construction of Large embankments (both stone and earth) on kaveri river in the delta region and the vaigai river to store flood water. Karikala, a chola king (A.D. 180) constructed a 160km long-embankment along the Kaveri River primarily to protect his people from recurrent floods. The Grand Anicut in the Kaveri delta built in the second century A.D. is the first major irrigation system in the Indian Sub-continent. He also patronized the construction of a large number of irrigation tanks.

Gupta era (A.D. 300 to 500): The Gupta dynasty made substantial contribution by promoting irrigated agriculture in their empire. The Gupta empire extended over almost two-thirds of the Indian subcontinent. Dykes and embankments were constructed to divert river water for irrigation. Separate canals for irrigation and drainage have been reported.

Pallava Kingdom: The Pallava dynasty, founded in A.D. 550 promoted extensive tank irrigation throughout Tamil Nadu. The Parameswara tank and the. Tiraiyaneri tank were contributions of this dynasty on irrigation. Vayiramega, Gudimallam and Ukkal tanks were constructed during the later part of the 8th Century A.D. The large tanks at Kanakvallieri Solapuram and Kaveripak were constructed during the 9th century. The Kaveripak tank had a 6.4 km long earth dam and is still functional. The Chitramegha tank and the Tandalam tank with sluice gate are other major tanks of this era.

Layout of system tanks (chain tanks). Barur Tank Project (1883), Salem

Fig. 1. Layout of system tanks (chain tanks). Barur Tank Project (1883), Salem

district, Tamil Nadu.

Choldempire (AJD. 985 to 1205): Chola king's are known for their enormous contribution to irrigated agriculture. It led to unprecedented prosperity and wealth in the region. Among the famous ancient anicuts are those in the Thanjavur district. Huge stones were used to build this

329 km long, 12-18 m broad anicut built near the Srirangam islands. The Talkad anicut built downstream of the Kaveri river is another important structure. A number of channels were dug to cover large areas of land on both sides of the river bank to ensure production of crops throughout the year.

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