The Political Economy of Tank Management in Tamil Nadu

Dik Roth and Linden Vincent

in Controlling the Water

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780198082927
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199082247 | DOI:
The Political Economy of Tank Management in Tamil Nadu

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In academic and policy debates, tanks are seen as appropriate alternative irrigation infrastructure to large dams in terms of efficiency, equity, and sustainability. Though partially true, this perspective masks several characteristic features of the tank as a resource and fails to look at its historicity and dynamism. This chapter questions this partially inadequate standpoint. It maps social struggles over tank resources in south India in the context of agrarian transformation from the perspectives of political economy and legal anthropology. It employs a comparative approach that examines the character of struggles in two different tank-irrigated agrarian landscapes of Pudukkottai district in Tamil Nadu, both tank cascades. It argues that the tank is a socio-technically constructed landscape and a politically contested resource. The prevailing use and management pattern of tank resources in the region is an outcome of prolonged social struggle, contestation, and negotiation among competing actors with conflicting interests.

Keywords: tank irrigation technology; cascade tanks; agrarian landscapes; political contestation; social struggle; political economy; social construction of technology; irrigation in Tamil Nadu

Chapter.  9463 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sociology

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