- The Periyar-Vaigai project is one of the important water
resource developments in South India, designed and constructed in
part during the last decade of the nineteenth century, to accelerate
the growth of the economy of Madras state. A noteworthy feature
of this project is that the waters of the westward flowing Periyar
river has been diverted to flow eastward for use on the east sloping
plains of Madurai. The Periyar dam project which actually diverts
the water was completed in 1896. The Vaigai regulating dam and
reservoir were additions, finished in 1959, to provide better control
and thus more efficient utilization of the water.
The thesis study begins with a descriptive statement of the
macro-physical environmental complex - the terrain, hydrography,
and climate - in which the project developed. It is followed by an
appraisal of the pre-Periyar resource utilization, covering the people of the area, pattern of settlement, and cropping and irrigation
systems carried out on a precarious land. An analysis of
daily rainfall data for a 30-year series, 1931-1960, is made to indicate
the need for the project being considered and accomplished.
The entire project is then described as a single unit, including a
brief historical account of its inception, the inter-state agreement;
and finally the physical project that consists of the Periyar dam
that impounds the Periyar waters in the Periyar lake, the tunnel
through which the water is led to Suruliyar, and the dam and
reservoir on Vaigai. The details pertaining to the two main canals
of the system, Periyar Main Canal and Tirumangalam Canal, as
well as the land irrigated by thern are given.
The impact of the project is considered in terms of utilization
of water, changes in land use, and increased production, limiting
the appraisal to the five taluks in Madurai district. A case study
of Jothimanickkam village and Farmer John Veeramani Thevar
from this village is further used to illustrate the impact of the
As a result of the project, the average area cultivated has
increased by 22% percent; but, even more important, the water has
given essential cropping stability to approximately a third of the
cropland of the locale. Prior to the project, when the cultivation
depended on the rainfall of the locale, the net produce per acre ranged frorn 8 to 12 bags of paddy. After the completion of the project,
the yield increased to 22 bags per acre, due to the assured
supply of water.
Thus , as a result of the Periyar-Vaigai development, the
average farmer is now able to produce more than his family needs;
and the tenant farmer, after paying the landlord's share, is able to
feed his family and even make a small profit on his surplus produce.