Sustainability of tunnel wells in a changing agrarian context : A case study from South India

We analyze tunnel wells (surangams), traditional water harvesting systems, which have been innovated and nurtured by farmers in the Enmakaje panchayat in the state of Kerala in South India for decades. We show how the genesis and design of the indigenous knowledge-based water harvesting systems are shaped by agro-ecological conditions. We also identify issues that affect the sustainability of tunnel wells in the changing agrarian context in this region. The significance of tunnel wells is declining, even though the smallholders, who dominate the agricultural landscape, are highly dependent on tunnel wells to meet their water requirements. Grass roots efforts are needed to revive this traditional water harvesting system.

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