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Reflections on World Heritage Day 2018

April 18, 2018

Abandoned pond (water tank), a traditional rainwater harvesting body ©NeerFoundation,India

World Heritage Day is today. It is a day to remember the significance of our cultural heritage and the need to preserve it.

Water was considered a valuable resource in India in the past, and traditional water conservation bodies and structures were constructed to catch, conserve and utilize it.

Personal musings:

I was fortunate enough to look at some of these unique and beautiful structures first hand during my work on water and gender based issues in India. In fact my very first introduction to water based issues was through the translation of the ‘Census of traditional natural resources management structures in Meerut district’ in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, while I was still in graduate school. I was also present, as a team member, when one of the first ever rain center was established, in India, in my hometown. These unique structures known as ‘talaab‘ in Hindi or Urdu roughly translate to ponds or tanks in English. Looking at them one marvels at the ingenuity and wisdom that our ancestors practice when it came to rainwater harvesting for future use.


A groundwater extraction well in Western Uttar Pradesh, India ©Pallavi Bharadwaj

These structures were made to sustain the agriculture/irrigation use along with supply potable water to the community dependent on it. Along side the surface water recharging these ponds and tanks also recharged the wells to extract groundwater.

Widespread structures:

During my work and travel to the Indian states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, I was amazed to see how widespread and varied these structures were to suit the local needs of the ancient people, who relied on these systems of water resources. I was also very fortunate to have worked along side some very knowledgeable people like Late Sh. Anupam Mishra, to learn how sustainable these water systems were even in the parched state of Rajasthan.

In conclusion: By utilizing the ancient knowledge and applying it in modern times one can hope that the water wisdom of our past can help us through the water based challenges that we face today and in the future.

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