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Bamboo Drip Irrigation: An Indigenous Method of Water Harvesting in Northeast India

The 200-year-old method is still used by tribal farmers in the Khasi and Jaintia hills which uses bamboo pipes to carry spring and stream water from a hilltop to a farm's lower locations in order to irrigate plantations. More details inside.

Aarushi Chadha
Bamboo Drip Irrigation System
Bamboo Drip Irrigation System

An ingenious technology of tapping streams and springwater by using bamboo pipes to irrigate plantations is widely used in the seven northeastern states of India, particularly Meghalaya. It is so well-developed that the 18 to 20 litres of water that enter the bamboo pipe system each minute are reduced to 20 to 80 drops per minute at the plant site after flowing for several hundred metres.

The 200-year-old method is still used by tribal farmers in the Khasi and Jaintia hills.

What is Bamboo Drip Irrigation?

In the area, there are many traditional water harvesting techniques in use. These include the "zabo" system (a way to stop rainwater from rolling off the mountains) used in Kikruma village in Nagaland's Phek district, "dongs" (water channels that originate in rivers) in Assam, "wet rice cum fish cultivation" (where water is allowed to stay on in the fields, leading to fish farming along with paddy cultivation), and "rooftop rainwater harvesting" (used in Mizoram and Meghalaya). Meghalaya and other mountainous northeastern regions, as well as portions of the northern plains and the Bhutan border region, all include examples of the bamboo drip irrigation system.

How Does the Bamboo Drip Irrigation System Work?

It is still common practice to use bamboo pipes to carry spring and stream water from a hilltop to a farm's lower locations in order to irrigate plantations. In this, 18 to 20 liters of water can travel hundreds of meters, and sometimes even kilometers, down a bamboo pipe in a single minute. The site receives 20–80 drips of water every minute from the other end.

To control the water flow so that it reaches the site in the lower reaches, where it is circulated, channel sections are created with bamboo of various diameters. Forked branches provide support for the channels.

Because it is inherently hollow and grows in abundance in the area, bamboo can be used to channel water. Different sizes of bamboo are used, depending on the slope and path that the water must take to reach a field. The inter-nodes and roughly one-third to half of the bamboo's diameter are chopped off to make the channels.

The smart system continues to function today while wasting very little water. This irrigation technique is used in areas with rocky, uneven terrain where using ground channels is impractical. Better absorption is facilitated by the agricultural site's trickle of water. This irrigation system truly uses drip irrigation.

Promoting Organic Farming in Nortt East

SIMFED and the Department of Assam are organizing the first Expo on Organic North East in Assam, set to take place from February 3rd to 5th, 2023 to showcase organic fruits and vegetables and connect us to nature again. Farmers from across the state and country are attending special workshop sessions. These classes will be held in Assamese, English, and Hindi. These sessions will be led by experts in organic production and value chains. Participants will gain an understanding of market trends, demand, the organic certification process, export potential, and other aspects of organic products and natural agribusiness.

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