Village Tank Cascade Systems of Sri Lanka

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1 Village Tank Cascade Systems of Sri Lanka A Traditional Technology of Drought and Water Management C.M. Madduma Bandara Emeritus Professor, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka Third Annual Workshop on Disaster Reduction Hyperbase - Asian Application (DRH-Asia) JST Hall, Science Plaza, Tokyo, Japan 8-9 January 2009

2 "How can people live on this planet sustainably and in harmony with nature?."

3 Sustainable Development -An Asian Perspective Santhusti Paramam Dhanam (Happiness is the greatest wealth) Indicators of development have gradually shifted from Gross National Product (GNP) to Human Development Indices (HDI). In the future they may move further towards the measurement of Gross Human Happiness.

4 Sri Lanka, as an Island located near the southern tip of India and the Asian Continent and in the core area of the South Asian Monsoon has developed its own unique forms of hydraulic civilization Sri Lanka

5 Sri Lanka is covered with a network of thousands of manmade lakes and ponds, known locally as 'tanks' (after 'tanque', the Portuguese word for 'reservoir'),numbering around 25,000. Some are functional others still remaining abandoned. Many are thousands of years old and almost all show a high degree of sophistication in their construction and design. Emmerson Tennent, the 19th century historian, was fulsome in his admiration for those who built them. "Their ruins present illustrations of determined perseverance, undeterred by the most discouraging of difficulties and unrelieved by the slightest appliance of ingenuity to diminish the toil of excavation."

6 Different Types of Tanks Several different types of tanks bare found - some of which had nothing to do with irrigation per se but all of which had a critical role to play in the practice of irrigation agriculture. It was, for example, traditional to build a forest tank in the jungle above the village. That tank, however, was not used to irrigate land; on the contrary, its express purpose was to provide water to wild animals and, hence, to reduce the likelihood that they would descend into the farms and destroy the crops in the search for water. Other types of tanks included: The mountain tanks, which were built to provide water for 'chena' or slash-and-burn agriculture - a local form of farming now discouraged by the authorities. Erosion control tanks, or 'pota wetiye', which was so designed that any silt was deposited in it before entering the main water storage tanks. Several erosion control tanks were associated with each village irrigation system. All were built in such a way that they could easily be de-silted. This may be an equivalent of Sabo Dams in Japan. Storage tanks, of which, traditionally, there were two - one being used whilst the other was being repaired. For that reason, such tanks were known as 'twin tanks'. Village Tank, of which there was one for each village that depended upon a particular irrigation system.

7 It was recently discovered (Madduma Bandara,1985) that, over 80% of the small tanks were organized as cascading systems within micro- and meso- catchments in the Dry undulating landscape. Cascade Systems - an ancient, small- scale but widespread traditional irrigation technology is observed in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka. Some date back to over two millennia, but remain still operational, providing a unique case of resilience and long-term sustainability. However, due to deforestation of catchments, changes in management systems, increasing external economic controls and the breakdown of old social order, their present functioning remains far below optimum levels. This may be rectified through certain improvements in land use planning, innovative management approaches and promotion of market- oriented agriculture.

8 A Landscape in which the Cascade Systems were evolved

9 Cascades of village tanks nestled inside mini- watersheds in the North Central Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, presenting a traditional technology that, developed over long periods of history, to face the challenges of recurrent drought and flood hazards. (To be inserted under I-2 :Major Significance of the DRH Template)

10 Cascades of Village Tanks above the Nachchaduwa Reservoir near the ancient Capital City of Anuradhapura When the central government was disrupted and the major tanks fell into disrepair, village life could carry on quite adequately. Each village still possessed its own small-scale irrigation system which was maintained by the villagers themselves."

11 A satellite image of Cascading Village tank systems feeding a large reservoir in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka (Dark spots representing water bodies) (To be inserted under 9-2 : Locations, of the DRH Template)

12 The present status of a village tank located within a cascade (to be inserted under Section V-15: Features and Attributes, of the DRH template)

13 Significance of Cascade Systems as a Traditional Irrigation Technology They Addresses Three main Disaster Related Issues: Droughts chronic, recurrent and highly damaging in the areas concerned Flash floods -during episodes of unusually heavy rainfall * Land degradation controlling siltation of irrigation reservoir systems

14 Current Relevance The current relevance of restoring the ancient cascade irrigation technology is felt due to several reasons. Among the foreseeable adverse impacts of global climate change is the exacerbation of extreme climatic events such as droughts and floods. Therefore, in a situation of increasing drought proneness or flood proneness, improvement of cascade systems may prove beneficial in view of its time-tested buffering capacity. At present in the areas of cascade systems, there is a higher prevalence of poverty and as a consequence some out-migration from the affected rural areas to cities. These tendencies may be checked to some extent through enhancing the potential for improving productivity. The higher prevalence of mal-nutrition among the rural communities can also be mitigated through improved tank fishing and animal husbandry. However, health issues related to drinking water, eating tank-fish contaminated by agrochemicals (e.g. Cadmium) received by tanks, including kidney failure and malaria would have to be monitored and remedied. The ecological issues related to the clearance of village forests and unsustainable land use, may be addressed through better planning based on the cascade principle. The break-down of old social order (cohesion, kinship, leadership, norms and values) may not be easily restored. However, the situation may be improved with innovative approaches that suits modern living conditions. In the place of traditional institutional arrangements new robust but flexible structures may have to be nurtured.

15 Elements at risk Agriculture and livelihoods Human lives Human networks in local communities Infrastructure Animals and grazing lands Reservoirs and fluvial basins Agricultural lands Cultural heritages

16 An Answer to Drought Hazard? On the basis of their form and appearance, the cascading systems would have operated as an ideal rainwater harvesting technology; a soil moisture and groundwater maintaining technology; a soil erosion and siltation control technology; a technology that ensured the maintenance of ecological balance; a technology that promoted social cohesion and need for community leadership; a system that accommodated spiritual development which promoted egalitarian attitudes, that helped the community in passing through the difficult times during the droughts; a system that nurtured the development of drought insurance through animal husbandry and fragmented land ownership; and that provided opportunities for inland fishing and human and animal nutrition.

17 Names and institutions of technology/knowledge developers Re-discovery of Cascade systems (Madduma Bandara (1985) University of Peradeniya; Research Studies Sakthivadivel et.al. (1997) and (Panabokke 2000) International Irrigation Management Institute, Colombo Ownership and Control Cascade systems were originated within the community and practiced over many generations. Presently managed by Farmer Organizations and Provincial Councils. Administratively, Minor Irrigation Systems come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agrarian Services. However, they are owned and operated by the local community under the provisions of the Agrarian Development Act.

18 Key References Madduma Bandara C.M. (1985) Catchment Ecosystems and Village Tank Cascades in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka: A Time- Tested System of Land and Water Management; in Strategies for River Basin Management (Eds. Lundqvist,J. et.al.) Linkoping, Sweden. Madduma Bandara, C.M. (1995). Tank cascade systems in Sri Lanka: Some thoughts on their development implications. In Haq, K A,et.al (Eds.), International Irrigation Management Institute, Colombo. Shakthivadivel et.al. (1997) Panabokke, C.R (2000). The small tank cascade systems of the Rajarata: Their setting, distribution patterns, and hydrography. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka.

19 Disaster events and/or societal circumstances, which became the driving force either for developing the technology/knowledge or enhancing its practice 1) Recurrent Droughts and long dry spells (and their tendency to accelerate due to global climate change). 2) Floods during high rainfall and dam breaches 3) Physical setting with an array of watersheds of different sizes, shapes and their natural resources endowments 4) Ecological change, deforestation, soil erosion. Increasing human elephant conflicts 5) Social cohesion and kinship in rural society 6) Poverty, backwardness and food shortages during droughts 7) Out-migration and flight of talent and productive resources

20 Aims and key mechanisms to achieve the targets 1) More efficient management of scarce water resources in a drought prone area 2) Physical rehabilitation of tank cascade systems 3) Restoration of the community spirit and appropriate rural institutions 4) Land use zoning and nature conservation 5 Economic upliftment without environmental damage through appropriate cropping, animal husbandry and aqua-culture.

21 Necessary process to implement Procedure and major actors 1) Submission of a comprehensive proposal 2) Official clearance and approaches 3) Location of adequate funding sources 4) Implementation strategy at field level 5) Identification of resource persons and field personnel 6) Interim evaluations and mid-term corrections 7) Ensuring sustainability of the project

22 Strength and limitations : Positive and negative Aspects Strengths 1. Clear Identification of a traditional technology 2.Unique nature and sustainability of an ancient system 3. Although small in scale the practice is more widespread in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, and possibly even outside Sri Lanka (eg. India, Thailand, China, and Japan) 4. Increasing recognition of the value and potential of cascade-based development among regional planners and civil engineers Constraints 1. Lack of funding for research and development 2. Location of the cascade technology in remote under-privileged areas of the country

23 Despite all these inherent advantages, why the cascading systems are so poorly functioning in the present times, remains an open question to be grappled with by the research community. A study of the severe drought that prevailed 1981, indicated that the worst drought damage is reported from areas under minor irrigation systems (Madduma Bandara, 1982). Some of these village irrigation areas also continue to remain as poorest areas of the country. Therefore, there is a real need to harness the beneficial aspects of cascading systems for combating the droughts as well for alleviating poverty.

24 Lessons learned through implementation Some initiatives have been made by international organizations such as Plan International and North Central Provincial Council to promote cascade-based rural development. These efforts, though commendable, lacks vision, direction and leadership. Activities at field level are often not coherent due to lack of an understanding of the systems principle and the actual cascade mechanisms. Evaluations of the progress in most implementation programmes is often biased and not so professional. The resources input to implement the necessary strategies had been marginal and minimal. The need for training a group of committed cadre of personnel with a clear understanding and vision is seriously felt.

25 Areas for Improvement Among the possible areas of further improvement, the first and foremost is the general recognition of the cascade concept in rural development planning. The increasing recognition of the cascade principle by modern civil engineers and regional planners is encouraging and promising. Just as the engineers deal with whole cascades than individual tanks, planners will be called upon to develop management structure not only covering individual villages but also whole system of villages nestled within a cascade system. Re-adjustment of land use and land tenure to suit current socio-economic realities without destroying the cascade bases presents another area of possible improvement. Above all, there is a need for preserving the ecological system that sustained the cascade technology for many generations.

26 Conclusions cascading system as a traditional irrigation technology, due to a variety of its positive features, is worthy of preservation, enhancement and popularization. This may be attempted through a systems approach, than through a sectoral or piecemeal intervention. It is the principles than the form of the cascading systems that deserve understanding, emulation and propagation. Therefore, the cascading systems may be perceived as flexible and evolving entities than antique objects. There is much scope for improvement and adoption of less harmful modern technologies. In order to face the challenges of modern times new shoots have to be developed from the ancient roots.

27 Message from the Proponent Village tank cascade systems reflect the wisdom of managing droughts, flash floods and land degradation in a tropical environment that suffers chronically from seasonal water shortages. The cascade technology has withstood the test of time and lasted for over two millennia. Restoration and development of cascade systems is still useful in rural renewal and local resource management. The development of a few model cascade systems may create a multiplier effects on manageing water resources in similar environments. Therefore there is a need to compare similar systems developed in a few other countries such as India, Thailand and Japan in collaboration with appropriate agencies. This may also help in addressing the impending world food crisis by way of ensuring sustainable food production leading to mitigation of rural poverty.

28 Two Roads diverged in a yellow wood And sorry, I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the under growth Then took the other, just as fair, Because, it was grassy and want of wear In leaves no step had trodden back I doubted if I should ever come back Two roads diverged in a wood, and I Took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference (Robert Frost ( ) Message I - Let us have the courage to follow unbeaten tracks that makes us different from other disaster information initiatives

29 Time for Tangible Outputs At this stage of development of DRH we may turn towards more tangible outputs Fully endorse the suggestion to have low cost project initiative that come within the purview of DRH purpose and spirit

30 Proposal for rehabilitating Traditional Village TankCascade Scope and Objectives Systems in Sri Lanka Cascade-based agricultural development has been emphatically promoted by the North Central Province Development Plan ( ). However, there had been hardly any progress in translating such lofty expectations into actual practice on ground. One of the major constraints had been a lack of understanding and appreciation of the cascade concept by policy makers, planners and administrators as well as the present day agrarian communities. There is also a need to demonstrate the value of the cascade approach to the farming communities through actual practice. It appears that, only some INGOs such as Plan Sri Lanka have made some positive initiatives in this direction while the government agencies have taken only a back seat. The objective of this study is to address the above issues through a short term research and planning exercise.

31 Methodology of Planning it is proposed in this study to establish a few demonstrative pilot projects in selected cascade systems in different parts of the Province. It is also proposed to create awareness on the value of the cascade approach to farmers as well as administrators and professionals. This general objective would be realized through implementation of the following specific research activities: 1. Selection of up to five cascades for rehabilitation and development as pilot or experimental cascade systems 2. Formulating long term development plans including appropriate land use zoning plans, water management plans and promotion of suitable cropping systems 3. Establishment of necessary training awareness programs among the beneficiaries, including farmers as well as school children 4. Experimenting with appropriate institutional and leadership development programs 5. Using media and aesthetic and religious avenues for promotion of cascade approach for social and economic sustainability

32 Activity 2008 Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 Aug Sept. Proposal submitted for the approval X Recruitment and Training of personnel and Secondary Data Collection X X Field Surveys (First Phase) X X X Data Analysis X X Interim Workshop and submission of progress report X Field Survey 2 nd Phase X X Preparation of the 1 st draft X X Final Workshop X Preparation of the Final Report X X

33 Workshops and Conferences At the beginning, there will be a planning workshop with all the research personnel, research assistants and enumerators. There will be two workshops, one before the submission of the progress report and the other before the submission of the final report. The first workshop will have a limited number of participants from agencies directly related to cascade development. The second will be an open forum for which leaders of all interested groups will be invited.

34 Project Budget (Summary) Estimated budget (Rs.) 1. Labour Cost 2. Subsistence & Traveling 360, , Purchasing Stationery and Equipment 4. Meetings and Workshops Total Exigencies & Miscellaneous Expenses (10%) University Administrative Charges (10%) Total Estimated budget 30,000 90, ,000 80,500 88, ,050 US $ 9000

35 Organizational Responsibility Organized through the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture and Implemented through the Rajarata University of Sri Lanka Project Personnel Dr. C.M. Madduma Bandara (Emeritus Professor), Mr. G.B. Gangodatenna (Senior Lecturer) and Mr. N.S.K. Herath (Lecturer) RUSL, Franki U. Perera (Irrgation Department, Anuradhapura)

36 Thank you for your Attention

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