Ahar Pynes
This traditional floodwater harvesting system is indigenous to south Bihar.
In south Bihar, the terrain has a marked slope -- 1 m per km -- from south to north. The soil here is sandy and does not retain water. Groundwater levels are low. Rivers in this region swell only during the monsoon, but the water is swiftly carried away or percolates down into the sand. All these factors make floodwater harvesting the best option here, to which this system is admirably suited.

An ahar is a catchment basin embanked on three sides, the 'fourth' side being the natural gradient of the land itself. Ahar beds were also used to grow a rabi (winter) crop after draining out the excess water that remained after kharif (summer) cultivation.
Pynes are articifial channels constructed to utilise river water in agricultural fields. Starting out from the river, pynes meander through fields to end up in an ahar. Most pynes flow within 10 km of a river and their length is not more than 20 km.

The ahar-pyne system received a death-blow under the nineteenth-century British colonial regime. The post-independent state was hardly better. In 1949, a Flood Advisory Committee investigating continuous floods in Bihar's Gaya district came to the conclusion that "the fundamental reason for recurrence of floods was the destruction of the old irrigational system in the district."

Of late, though, some villages in Bihar have taken up the initiative to re-build and re-use the system. One such village is Dihra.
It is a small village 28 km southwest of Patna city. In 1995, some village youths realised that they could impound the waters of the Pachuhuan (a seasonal stream passing through the village that falls into the nearby river Punpun) and use its bed as a reservoir to meet the village's irrigation needs. Essentially, this meant creating an ahar-pyne system
After many doubts, the village powers-that-be gave the go-ahead. Money was collected and work began in May 1995. After a month of shramdaan (voluntary labour) the villagers completed their work mid-June.
Their efforts have borne fruit. By 2000 AD, the ahar was irrigating 80 ha of land. The people grow two cereal crops and one crop of vegetables every year. The returns from the sale of what they produce are good. The village is no longer a poor one.
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Bengal's Inundation Channel
Bengal once had an extraordinary system of inundation canals. Sir William Willcocks, a British irrigation expert who had also worked in Egypt and Iraq, claimed that inundation canals were in vogue in the region till about two centuries ago. Floodwater entered the fields through the inundation canals, carrying not only rich silt but also fish, which swam through these canals into the lakes and tanks to feed on the larva of mosquitoes. This helped to check malaria in this region. According to Willcocks, the ancient system of overflow irrigation had lasted for thousands of years. Unfortunately, during the Afghan-Maratha war in the 18th century and the subsequent British conquest of India, this irrigation system was neglected, and was never revived.

According to Willcocks, the distinguishing features of the irrigation system were:
1.) the canals were broad and shallow, carrying the crest waters of the river floods, rich in fine clay and free from coarse sand;

2.) the canals were long and continuous and fairly parallel to each other, and at the right distance from each other for purposes of irrigation;

3.) irrigation was performed by cuts in the banks of the canals, which were closed when the flood was over.
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Emperor Shahjahan (1627-58 AD) first shifted the city from the Aravalli hills towards the plains of the Yamuna. But he made sufficient arrangements to meet the water needs of the new palace, the army, and the common people. His system of Shahjahani canals and dighis was probably the
best creation of the time.

Shahjahan ordered Ali Mardan Khan and his Persian artisans to bring the waters of the Yamuna to the city and to his palace. Ali Mardan Khan not only brought Yamuna waters to the palace, but also linked this canal with another from Sirmaur hills, presently located on the Delhi border near Najafgarh. The new canal, Ali Mardan canal, channelled the waters of the Sahibi river basin to merge into the old canal.

In the main city, the canal charged dighis and wells. A dighi was a square or circular reservoir of about 0.38 m by 0.38 m with steps to enter. Each dighi had its own sluice gates. People were not allowed to bathe or wash clothes on the steps of the dighi. However, one was free to take water for personal use. People generally hired a kahar or a mashki to draw water from the dighis. Most of the houses had either their own wells or had smaller dighis on their premises. In the event of canal waters not reaching the town and the dighis consequently running dry, wells were the main source of water. Some of the major wells were Indara kuan near the present Jubilee cinema, Pahar-wala-kuan near Gali-pahar-wali, and Chah Rahat near Chhipiwara (feeding water to the Jama Masjid).

In 1843, Shahjahanabad had 607 wells, of which 52 provided sweetwater. Today 80 per cent of the wells are closed because the water is contaminated by the sewer system.

Besides tanks, sultans and their nobles built and maintained many baolis (stepwells). These baolis were secular structures from which everyone could draw water. Gandak-ki-baoli (so named because its water has gandak or sulphur) was built during the reign of Sultan Iltutmish. The water of this beautiful rock-hewn baoli is still used for washing and bathing. Adjacent to this, there are the ruins of other baolis like Rajon-ki-baoli, a baoli in the Dargah of Kaki Saheb, and a caved baoli behind Mahavir Sthal. During this period baolis were built in other parts of the city too.

Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq (1325-51 AD) inherited Delhi with three competing habitations, and added a fourth one to it - Jahanpanah - which means the shelter of the world. The Satpula (meaning seven spans) was built to regulate water supply for irrigating the area falling outside the city. Built across the southern wall of Jahanpanah, it is a dam towering 64.96 m above ground level. Its seven principal spans were sluices that controlled the water in an artificial lake.)

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