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Indigenous Knowledge, Integrated Water Resource Management for Sustainable Development

Congress: 2008

Keyword(s): Integrated water management,indigenous knowledge,water and society.sustainable development
Abstract Sustainable development involves meeting the current need without jeopardizing the needs of the future. Sustainable use of resources would lead to biodiversity conservation. The Apa Tanis of Arunachal Pradesh in North East India constitute a separate endogamous community with its own territory, language, customs and traditions. The valley used for cultivation of rice is most efficiently irrigated by the Apatanis. Water source is diverted to rice fields through a network of channels regulated by wooden sluice gates. By opening and closing these gates, the flow of water is regulated, so that the desired field can be irrigated. Pissiculture is done along with late variety of rice because of assured water supply and this provides additional income of the farmers with a production of about 50 kg of fish equivalent of about 400-500 kg. They also have private forests and homestead gardening providing rich biodiversity. By using indigenous wisdom perfected over centuries this community has solved the twin problems of biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation. This is managed by the community institution called Buliyang which organizes labour, distributes water and introduces technological innovations. Every drop of water is carefully utilized. Water is not allowed to flow unchecked as that might sweep away the finest layer of clay from the top. Along the boundary of the field, inside a shallow drain had been dug which would carry the water without disturbing the top layer of surface clay. The slow spill-over from these drains actually waters the fields. Moreover, when water has to be drained from one field into another, which may belong to one’s neighbour, a peculiar device is adopted. A hole is made in the balk and a bamboo pipe of short length carries the water to the next lower field. Cowdung and other indigenous compost is used in the rice fields and domestic gardens. Using diverse species and often ingenious combinations of water management practices, all these systems contribute tremendously to food security, agricultural biodiversity and the world’s natural and cultural heritage. The integration of fish in rice farming provides invaluable protein, especially for subsistence farmers managing rainfed systems. The per acre productivity in agriculture in the Apa Tani Valley is the highest in India. It is 4900 kgs as compared to the productivity of 4300 kgs in the Punjab, The wet rice cultivation of the Apatanis, is one of the most energy efficient agricultural systems, with integrated water management system and with an energy out/input ratio of upto 60 compared to about 7 for traditional Indian agriculture.
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