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Drainage and irrigation channel renovation with assessment of piped water – Securing agricultural livelihoods through improving water availability in Thangal Perumpulem village, India

Multiple Authors

Thangal Perumpulem’s renovated drainage and irrigation channel

Thangal Perumpulem, a village 1 km away from the coast of the Bay of Bengal in Tamil Nadu, had an inefficient irrigation system and land that was prone to flooding and erosion. Altered rainfall patterns, changing seasons and more extreme weather events aggravated by climate change affected the soil quality and led to water shortages as well as a reduced crop yield. The cropping pattern has changed from 2 harvests to 1 harvest in a year between January and February leading to a significant loss of income.

With the support of the EU-financed “AdaptCap” project, the local community renovated two 700 m long irrigation channels to distribute water. The channels were constructed using hard stiff clay, hard red earth and gravelly soil as revetment. A total of 7,800 m3of material were necessary to build the channels, which help distribute the water to the agriculture fields. They also enable water drainage and prevent water from stagnating during monsoon season and cyclones. Soil was removed from the government cement revetments, allowing water to pass under the bund and road. Shutters were added to each of these cement structures to prevent flooding of the fields, sea water backing up in canals and keeping the channels clear of debris and dirt. Over 80 families benefit from these measures, increasing agricultural productivity and allowing people to find employment, thus reducing migration to other towns. This adaptation measure has resulted in:

  • Increase of agricultural command area: Cultivable land increased by 284 acres, all of which are connected to renovated irrigation channels
  • More efficient irrigation: Cost of irrigation per acre reduced from Rs. 4,700 to 1,700, leaving the farmers with a higher income

Implementation costs

The overall costs of this adaptation measure – including a local vulnerability and needs assessment, capacity building measures in the community, technical support as well as material and labour costs – amounted to Rs. 257,690. Of these, Rs. 252,690 were borne by AdaptCap while the community contributed Rs. 5,000.

Operation & maintenance of the system

In order to remain operative in the long run, several parts of the system require regular operation and maintenance (O&M). Regular O&M activities include:

  • Verifying constructed adaptation measures are fully intact, working and safe
  • Cleaning irrigation channels regularly
  • Maintaining and repairing channels and shutters whenever required

The community has distributed the responsibilities and timeframes for O&M activities between the Village Development Committee (VDC) who is responsible for the overall operation and the Panchayat who takes care of the maintenance. The average monthly O&M costs amount to Rs. 3,250. The local Task Force Committee levies a monthly contribution fee from all the beneficiaries.

M&E of activities and benefits

A monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system was developed to regularly screen and assess the adaptation project’s sustainability and impact. Information is collected in four areas:

  • Effectively achieved vulnerability reduction
  • Acceptance by and technical feasibility for the community
  • Cost for implementation and regular O&M
  • Positive and negative side effects (i.e., environmental, social, economic)

Challenges and lessons learnt

  • Efficient community participation should be ensured throughout all phases of such an initiative, making it sustainable.
  • Before executing any adaptation measure for which land is needed, the relevant land documents need to be obtained.
  • Building the channels should be done outside rainy seasons as heavy rain events can damage the channels and delay construction works. The time schedule needs to be designed keeping this in mind.

Project background and partners

The project “AdaptCap – Strengthening Adaptation Capacities and Minimizing Risks of Vulnerable Coastal Communities in India” financed by the European Commission has set out to strengthen the adaptation capacities of vulnerable coastal communities in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu (India) and minimize their climate change-related risks using an integrated approach.

The three-year initiative is implemented by the Indo-German Environment Partnership Programme of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ-IGEP) in partnership with four Indian and international partners.

GIZ-IGEP is responsible for the overall implementation and project management.

AVVAI Village Welfare Society (AVVAI) supports the stakeholders in three cities and nine villages in Tamil Nadu as a local partner, providing training and implementation support in assessing adaptation needs and developing and carrying out adaptation measures.

Academy of Gandhian Studies (AGS) fulfills the same role in Andhra Pradesh.

adelphi contributed to developing technology solutions for the pilot projects and M&E frameworks, designing and implementing capacity building programmes and providing technical support for pilot project implementation.

ICLEI South Asia led the implementation of activities in the six urban areas targeted by AdaptCap.

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