Saving water, the age-old way: The eris of Tamil Nadu

Eris or tanks are Tamil Nadu’s traditional water harvesting systems. Paddy cultivation in the State would have been impossible if not for the eris.

Eris or tanks are Tamil Nadu’s traditional water harvesting systems. Approximately one-third of the irrigated area of Tamil Nadu is watered by eris. Eris play many roles in maintaining the ecological balance – they act as as flood-control systems, preventing soil erosion and wastage of runoff during heavy rainfall. They also recharge the groundwater in the surrounding areas. The presence of eris provided an appropriate micro-climate for the local areas. Without eris, paddy cultivation would have been impossible.

“Eris are designed such that they are all interconnected, and if the water in one overflows, it automatically gets diverted to the next village. There are 39,000 such eris in Tamilnadu, and are a wonderful example of a natural, non-invasive method of using and sharing water. The only thing is that they must be de-silted regularly. Else, there will not be enough space to accommodate the water, and floods may result. The silt is actually excellent for the fertility of the soil in those areas. It was being beautifully managed until the British took over, and centralized the whole system, taking the control out of the hands of the local population. This has continued post-independence in the form of the State Public Works Department. De-centralization and local self-governance remains only in letter” — Sekhar Raghavan, Rain Centre, Chennai

Pic courtesy SriniG, via CC attribution license.

This is part of a series on traditional water conservation systems and practices across India.

Catch Every Drop is a campaign on sustainable water conservation by The Alternative, sponsored by Arghyam, with partners India Water Portal and Biome Environmental Solutions.

Whether it is the Cauvery river dispute, the unregulated proliferation of bore wells or the death of Bangalore’s beautiful lakes, everyone has a story, an opinion or a question on water. While most people understand and recognize the importance of saving water, not everyone knows how to do it, or even what exactly they can do.

‘Catch Every Drop’ is a showcase of stories of pioneering water conservation work done by corporates, lake restoration groups, Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and individuals in Bangalore. These stories, we hope, will inspire you to join this growing community of people who truly care about water, our planet’s most precious resource.

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