The zabo (the word means 'impounding run-off') system is practiced in Nagaland in north-eastern India. Also known as the ruza system, it combines water conservation with forestry, agriculture and animal care.
Villages such as Kikruma, where zabos are found even today, are located on a high ridge. Though drinking water is a major problem, the area receives high rainfall. The rain falls on a patch of protected forest on the hilltop; as the water runs off along the slope, it passes through various terraces. The water is collected in pond-like structures in the middle terraces; below are cattle yards, and towards the foot of the hill are paddy fields, where the run-off ultimately meanders into.
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The river Mezii flows along the Angami village of Kwigema in Nagaland. The riverwater is brought down by a long channel. From this channel, many branch channels are taken off, and water is often diverted to the terraces through bamboo pipes. One of the channels is named Cheo-oziihi - oziihi means water and Cheo was the person responsible for the laying of this 8-10 km-long channel with its numerous branches. This channel irrigates a large number of terraces in Kwigwema, and some terraces in the neighbouring village. There are three khels and the village water budget is divided among these
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Bamboo Drip Irrigation
Meghalaya has
an ingenious system of tapping of stream and springwater by using bamboo pipes to irrigate plantations. About 18-20 litres of water entering the bamboo pipe system per minute gets transported over several hundred metres and finally gets reduced to 20-80 drops per minute at the site of the plant. This 200-year-old system is used by the tribal farmers of Khasi and Jaintia hills to drip-irrigate their black pepper cultivation.
Bamboo pipes are used to divert perennial springs on the hilltops to the lower reaches by gravity. The channel sections, made of bamboo, divert and convey water to the plot site where it is distributed without leakage into branches, again made and laid out with different forms of bamboo pipes. Manipulating the intake pipe positions also controls the flow of water into the lateral pipes. Reduced channel sections and diversion units are used at the last stage of water application. The last channel section enables the water to be dropped near the roots of the plant.
Bamboos of varying diameters are used for laying the channels. About a third of the outer casing in length and internodes of bamboo pieces have to be removed while fabricating the system. Later, the bamboo channel is smoothened by using a dao, a type of local axe, a round chisel fitted with a long handle. Other components are small pipes and channels of varying sizes used for diversion and distribution of water from the main channel. About four to five stages of distribution are involved from the point of the water diversion to the application point.
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