* The channel sections, made of bamboo, divert and convey water to a farm site
* In this, 18-20 litres of water can enter a bamboo pipe in a minute and get transported over hundreds of metres, sometimes several kilometres
* Bamboo, which grows profusely in the region, is naturally hollow, which is why it can be used to channel water
When the wise ones urged the world to look East, they could well have been referring to a traditional drip irrigation system in practice in the Northeast. For the system — using bamboo — is environment-friendly, easy to implement and costs next to nothing.
The region’s diversity of geographical features, climate and people makes a case for sustainable living. Home to a large number of ethnic groups, the region has indigenous systems of housing and farming — with locally available resources — that are now being held up as best practices across the world.
Among the systems being used for farming are bamboo pipes, which divert spring water from hilltops to the lower reaches. The channel sections, made of bamboo, divert and convey water to a farm site. This method of traditional water harvesting, among other sustainable agricultural systems in the region, is an age-old practice.
The Northeast belongs to the Eastern Himalayan region. The entire region falls within the tropical belt of a warm summer monsoon climate. There are different techniques of water harvesting for collecting or storing it in natural tanks such as ponds and sinkholes. Harvesting or channelling water not only leads to food security with increased crop production, but also stops soil erosion.
Many traditional water harvesting systems are practised in the region. Among them are ‘dongs’ (water channels that originate in rivers) in Assam, the ‘wet rice cum fish cultivation’ system (where water is allowed to stay on in the fields, leading to fish farming along with paddy cultivation), followed in Ziro Valley of Arunachal Pradesh, the ‘zabo’ system (a method of preventing rainwater from rolling off the mountains) of Kikruma village in Nagaland’s Phek district and the ‘rooftop rainwater harvesting’ system of Mizoram and Meghalaya. The bamboo drip irrigation system can be seen in Meghalaya and other hilly areas of the Northeast, in parts of the northern plains and the Bhutan border area.
This traditional system of tapping stream and spring water from the hilltop to the lower sites of a farm by using bamboo pipes is still in use for irrigating plantations. In this, 18-20 litres of water can enter a bamboo pipe in a minute and get transported over hundreds of metres, sometimes several kilometres. At the other end, the site receives 20-80 drops of water per minute.
Channel sections are made of bamboos of different diameters to control the water flow in such a way that the water reaches the site in the lower reaches, where it is circulated. The channels are supported by forked branches.
Bamboo, which grows profusely in the region, is naturally hollow, which is why it can be used to channel water. Depending on the slope and the direction in which the water has to travel to reach a field, different bamboo sizes are used. To create the channels, about one-third to half of the diameter of the bamboo is sliced off, including the inter-nodes.
The ingenious system wastes very little water and works to this day. This irrigation system is for rough and uneven landscapes, where using ground channels is not feasible. The trickle of water at the farm site leads to better absorption. This is indeed a true drip irrigation system.
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