Rainwater Harvesting and Management

A Historical Overview of Rainwater Harvesting and Management


Some archaeological evidence suggest the existence of irrigation and drinking water supply lines which formed numerous wells with brick lining in various parts of the Indus Valley Civilization in north and west India. Dholavira, Mohenjodaro, and Harappa had many reservoirs to store rainwater. At other places, such as Lothal and Inamgao, small bunds were constructed by the local people to store rainwater for drinking and irrigation. The Indus settlements were particularly known for their advanced drainage and sewerage systems.

The Mauryan Empire witnessed the construction of several dams and bunds. Details about irrigation and water harvesting systems of this period can be found in Kautilya’s Arthashastra. It gives an extensive account of state rules and regulations relating to taxes on irrigational water, fines and punishment for causing damage to another’s ploughed or sown field by letting water overflow from a tank or reservoir.  Arthashastra  suggests death penalty for someone who broke a reservoir or tank full of water.

The Rajput dynasties promoted irrigation works in north India. In east India, the Pala and the Sena Dynasty undertook endeavours on a large scale to strengthen the  irrigation system.

In the medieval period, the Delhi Sultans constructed numerous water reservoirs, step wells, canals, tanks and similar edifices to efficiently manage water resources. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq distributed loans and financial help to encourage farmers to build their own rainwater harvesting systems and wells. Large and smaller tanks were built in south India during the medieval period by the Vijaynagra rulers.

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