Catching the rains

Tiruvannamalai District Administration created a world record by converging a range of schemes to ensure rainwater harvesting through creation of farm ponds

Catching the rains

The basic needs for human survival are air, water and food. Availability of water impacts social and economic activities and is an essential component of the ecosystem. It also impacts the poverty levels. Water crisis is emerging as one of the biggest problems that the country faces. If not attended forthwith, the crisis could become insurmountable in the coming days. 'Jal Shakti' mission, launched by the Government of India, is a move to ensure water supply to all the regions of the country. The mission also attempts to address the critical question whether there is enough availability of water.

Tiruvannamalai District has been identified as one among the 17 water-stressed Districts in Tamil Nadu by Jal Shakti Ministry of Union Government during 2019. One of the four interventions of the Jal Shakti Campaign has been water conservation through rainwater harvesting.

Farm ponds can help support wildlife habitat, reduce soil erosion, improve water shed health and provide a place for recreational and livelihood activities like fishing. They also have a great impact on changing the crop productivity as well as cropping intensity. The farmer obviously is the principal beneficiary of ponds as these ponds provide water for irrigation, thereby, increasing the net irrigated area and productivity.

As per the forecast made by the Meteorological Department, it was assessed that there would be 1,040 mm of average rainfall during the year 2020-21 in Tiruvannamalai District. With the aim to address the issue of water availability, the initiative of Farm Pond was introduced in the district. It was felt that rainwater harvesting through Farm Ponds would create a culture of water conservation and ensure the availability of water all throughout the year. Fortunately, Tiruvannamalai District had 1729.02 mm of rain during the year 2020-21.

With a view to improving the groundwater potential of the district, the district administration decided to create 1,121 farm ponds in 541 village panchayats of 18 blocks at a unit cost of Rs 1.78 lakhs. This was sought to be accomplished within 30 days under Catch the Rain Campaign. Workforce, consisting mostly of women labourers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, was tapped.

In order to motivate the officials to finish this task before the onset of monsoon, the district administration applied for citation of world record to four reputed world record agencies namely, Elite World Records, India Records Academy, Asian Records Academy and Tamilan Book of Records.

The project was planned by the District Administration well before the onset of monsoon during the period between August and September. Hundreds of women workers under MGNREGA were roped in for this purpose.

The Scheme was inaugurated by the district collector on August 12, 2021 at Seelapandal Village in Thurinjapuram Block and completed on September 10, 2021. The officers of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department and Agriculture and Horticulture Departments were involved in the scheme. The objective was also to converge the inputs that could be made available from each of these Departments.

The dimensions of each farm pond are 72 ft x 36 ft x 5 ft. The total volume of one farm pond is 12,960 cubic feet. A total of 3.63 lakh litres of water can be stored in each farm pond. Thus 40.69 crore litres of water was additionally stored during the monsoon season.

Total man-days generated in 1,121 farm ponds is 6.78 lakh with each farm pond generating 603 man-days of work. An expenditure of Rs 18.52 crore under labour component and Rs 78.47 lakh under material component was incurred during this project period under MGNREGA.

Quality aspects of newly constructed farm ponds were ensured. Eleven teams from four world record agencies visited Tiruvannamalai District to judge the execution of targeted farm ponds from September 12 to September 14. 432 farm ponds were checked by adjudicators for confirming the prescribed standards. Percentage of rejection was only 0.3 per cent (Out of 1,121 farm ponds dug, 1118 were found to be of desired quality standards).

These adjudicators approved the farm ponds after the inspection and issued a provisional certificate of world record with the title 'Most farm ponds created at multiple locations in 30 days'. This was awarded to the district collector and the additional collector (Development) on September 14, 2021.


The farm pond initiative led to certain positive impacts and technological changes:

 Increased groundwater level up to 6 to 7 feet across the district.

 Considerable area of dry land was taken up for farming due to increase in the water table.

 Increase in average farm productivity.

 As an innovative practice, now composite farming is practiced in Tiruvannamalai District.

The key to success of this project was the convergence of various schemes and the engagement of officers of various departments in the planning and implementation process. This record could not have been created without such an initiative. The story is a wonderful example of Nexus of Good. What has happened in the district, under the guidance of its District Collector B Murugesh and at the initiative of a young and dynamic Additional Collector M Prathap, is not only commendable but also replicable and scalable.

Views expressed are personal

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