Tamil Nadu readies pond plan

By R K Srinivasan
Published: Wednesday 15 July 2009

Tamil Nadu readies pond plan

-- (Credit: R K SRINIVASAN) After successful pilot project, state plans to revive ponds in 12,618 villages

Lush paddy fields abound in Pattikadu village in Tamil Nadu's Kanchipuram district. But it is the village pond, oorani in Tamil, which is the centre of attraction. Revived under the state government's pilot pond renovation programme in 2005, it now supplies water to the village round the year.

There is a marked difference in the quality of water now the coliform bacteria level in water has reduced by over 90 per cent, said Dirk Walther of the Centre for Environmental Studies, which helped the state draw up the technical plan. Walther had tested the oorani water in January this year.

While Pattikadu enjoys the benefit of its community programme, a village two kilometres away remains dry through the summer.About 20-25 people from the neighbouring village are forced to fetch water from Pattikadu because their village pond is full of silt. But their trouble might just end soon.

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After the success of the pilot project, the state rural development department, the coordinator of the programme, is planning ooranis in all its 12,618 panchayats. The pilot included the Pattikadu oorani, along with six others in Kanchipuram and Ramanathapuram.

"Oorani is a dug-out pond that collects and stores rainwater for drinking. Ooranis are either square or rectangular and dug to depths of two to five metres," said M S Shanmugam, programme officer of Madurai-based non-profit Development of Humane Action (dhan) Foundation, which got villagers to plan and work for the project.

Villagers contributed 25 per cent of the renovation cost of Rs 11 lakh. They sold some soil that they unearthed during desilting. The rest, they deposited as a bund around the oorani, leaving a wide ridge so that the soil does not slide. It is also their responsibility to maintain the oorani.

The villagers remove sediment and maintain the filters annually. Besides, they take extra care because a temple is located on the bund and the oorani is considered sacred.

According to Walther, the ooranis are designed to work for 20 years. "The deposition is negligible. Three cubic metre of silt accumulates each year. This means it works out to be 60 cubic metre, which is less than 1 per cent of the oorani's total volume--9,000 cubic metre," he added.

To monitor water usage, there is a water meter in the outlet filter (see graphic). "On an average, villagers consume 8 per cent water; 78 per cent is recharged and about 15 per cent is lost through evaporation," he said. There are protection zones, which includes areas outside the oorani as well. Farmers don't use fertilizers in the catchment areas and practise organic farming there. A Pattikadu resident said the villagers also grow teak and vegetables, which provide shade and reduce evaporation losses.

Janaki, a housewife in Pattikadu, said she prefers the oorani's water for cooking because it keeps food fresh for two days at a stretch. "I have been living in the village for 20 years. Earlier, we used to face problems. But now even if the oorani dries up during summer, we fetch water from the well in its centre. Thankfully, we don't have to walk several kilometres for water anymore."

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