International Rainwater Catchment Systems Conference
Catchment: An Answer to the Water Scarcity of the Next Millennium."
Petrolina, Brazil - July 1999
Section 6: Gender and Community Related Aspects of Rainwater Catchment
Food Security Through Rainwater Catchment
Water Sanitation Program
55 Lodi Estate
New Delhi 110 003, India
Harvesting rainwater, from the rooftop and on the surface,
has been part of Indian social and cultural life since antiquity. A wide range
of hydraulic systems to suit diverse ecological regimes exist in the country.
Ancient texts, inscriptions, local traditions and archaeological remains bear
testimony to a rich tradition of rainwater harvesting. Some evidence of
advanced water harvesting systems can be traced from pre-historic times as
well. The Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayana and various Vedic, Buddhist and Jain
texts contain several references to canals, tanks, embankments and wells.
With the settling societies being largely agrarian, written
texts are loaded with reference to irrigation systems. Kautilya, a minister of
King Chandragupta Maurya (321 - 297 BC), gave vivid reference of irrigation
with water harvesting systems in his historic politico-administrative treatise
called the Arthsastra. Kautilya's treatise is often compared to Machiavelli's
The Prince. He pointed out that not only people were knowledgeable about water
regimes and the hydrological cycle but that the state was often supportive of
such ingenious local solutions.
Archaeological evidences indicate that this so-called `water
wisdom' was unique to the development of civilizations on the Indian
subcontinent. It was all a case of learning to live with nature. The first
humans, who came to inhabit the Indian subcontinent, must have soon realised
that water was a very ephemeral resource for them. With the monsoon season
being limited to three months, people knew that sustaining life will require
extending the bounties of the wet to dry months. The diverse water harvesting
systems, developed to suit some 15 different ecological regions, are the net
result of human ingenuity.
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