Gundar Basin water conservation project

HUF’s water conservation project in Tamil Nadu focuses on reviving the driest river basin in Tamil Nadu – the Gundar Basin. This river basin is the primary source of irrigation for farming communities in nearby cities. Encroachments and mismanagement of water resources has resulted in extensive depletion of ground water table of this area. This has forced people to migrate to other regions in search of livelihood.


In 2010, HUL, Development of Humane Action (DHAN) Foundation and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) through a unique corporate-NGO-institutional partnership launched a water conservation project in Nialayur, one of the project villages in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. This is a Tank based watershed development programme focused on developing the catchment area, creating new water bodies, reviving small water bodies and other conservation works.The technical and implementation supervision of this project is facilitated by DHAN Vayalagam Tank Foundation.

One of the unique features of this project is that it is implemented by organising farmers, landless laborers and women into an association at each tank level. They contribute 10% of the renovation cost. The direct stake of the farmers in the project ensures that the benefits of the project are sustained in the long term.

An interesting innovation put into operation at the project sites is the ‘neerkatti’ or common irrigation system for water management. In this a person is appointed to oversee the equal distribution of water, ensuring it reaches all the areas which are in dire need of water. The project has recorded significant success.


The project area covers 15 tank cascades with 255 tanks, serving a number of people across four districts of South Tamil Nadu (Madurai, Virudhunagar, Sivagangai, Ramanathapuram).

Key benefits are:

  • 17,696 small and marginal farm families have benefited from the interventions of this project.
  • Potential to harvest and store 42.56 million cubic metres of surface fresh water resources has been created.
  • Additional agricultural production of 10,150 tonnes boosted the income levels of farmers.Farmers have cultivated second crop despite of monsoon failure.
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