Desert fort. Once able to provide water to domiciles and travelling traders. Today, government taps groundwater and uses pipes. And has slaked the city to thirst.
Jaisalmer district. Rainfall 100 mm. In the 1987 drought, there was enough water for the people who stuck to their rainwater harvesting structures called kunds

Rainfall 15,000 mm. Officially recorded as a village that has water shortage.


After canals, politician-friendly big dams and other cement monsters, let us understand all over again the ways of managing water.

Dying Wisdom
The rise, fall and potential of India’s traditional water harvesting systems

The Centre for Science and Environment dedicates the Citizens’ Fourth Report to the Native Wisdom of the Rural Communities of India.

Harvest what?
The water harvesting rationale: extend monsoon bounties to dry months.
The basic principle: conserve water where it falls.

What did the post-1947 national school of water management teach?
Certainly not water management.

So Dying Wisdom looks at a millennial tradition to find answers to today’s irrigation and drinking water crises.

That far back? But isn’t the Arthasastra about administration?
Yes. That is why it links state prosperity to rainfall regimes, soil types, crop patterns, and localised water harvesting.

In fact, Dying Wisdom looks into India’s 15 ecological zones, each with its localised systems. An awesome variety. A trove of technology.

Rain is decentralised. So is the demand for water.
Why can’t we decentralise supply?

Dying Wisdom argues for a revival of local water harvesting systems.
A revival that is not an archaic return to the past.

Click here for more information on Dying Wisdom

the book, drop by drop...
Traditional Water Harvesting: A Multi-millennial Mission * Water has been harvested since antiquity, a tradition sustaining human growth and survival over millennia.This chapter finds such evidence in ancient texts, inscriptions, and archaeological remains.

CHAPTER 2 Traditional Water Harvesting Systems: A Trove of Technology and Traditions * This chapter is divided into 15 sections. Each describes the systems of a particular ecological region of the country. Water harvesting clearly emerges as an expert response to local community needs and micro-ecology.

CHAPTER 3 From Community Control to State Supremacy: The Rise and Fall of Water Harvesting * Indian villages were relatively autonomous. Customs and institutions existed to allocate water and maintain systems. Water harvesting generated its own surplus. The British administration destroyed this financial base, hence the local capacity to manage natural resources.

CHAPTER 4 Water harvesting: Waiting for Wisdom to Make its Way * Local water harvesting systems possess great potential, given India’s irrigation and drinking water needs. The chapter also records attempts being made to revive local systems and reviews attendant problems.

A Statement of Shared Concern recommends strategies for the revival of local harvesting systems.

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