Payment for Ecosystem Services to Sustain Kudimaramathu in Tamil Nadu

The Tamil Nadu government is attempting to revive the institution of kudimaramathu by leveraging a scheme sponsored by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Developmentto rejuvenate small waterbodies in the state. How a payment for ecosystem services system can incentivise village panchayats to engage in tank management and, in turn, ensure the sustainability and longevity of the community-based programme beyond the life of the project is explored.

Due to changing weather patterns, several regions in India are experiencing frequent and prolonged droughts. However, most of these regions also face devastating floods caused by short but intense spells of rain. Both climactic extremes affect farmers adversely. To mitigate agrarian distress while trying to double farmers’ income, effective national policies are needed. This article explores how a payment for ecosystem services (PES) system can complement the efforts of the government in reviving the age-old practice of kudimaramathu, a traditional participatory water management system, and can potentially help sustain the community-based programme at the grass-roots level.

Tamil Nadu, a highly water-stressed state, intends to revive the traditional institution of kudimaramathu, wherein farmers collectively contribute a percentage of capital or physical labour towards managing village waterbodies. This includes desilting tanks and feeder canals, raising the existing bunds, and regular maintenance work. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development(NABARD) is to sponsor this project by disbursing a significant part of a ₹3,000 crore budget to rejuvenate 41,000 tanks by 2020. Under this scheme, the Tamil Nadu government will allocate funds for the rejuvenation work, and the beneficiaries—mostly farmers—will contribute 10% of the project cost. Where tank management interventions during the British rule and in the post-independence period by successive governments failed to revive the institution of kudimaramathu, will the government’s efforts to revive it allow people in Tamil Nadu to successfully and sustainably manage the state’s waterbodies?

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Updated On : 9th Feb, 2018

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