MAN HAS always been on quest of building new things. Even when there were no big machines and qualified engineers, the world had expert builders who shaped the earth into various forms to meet needs of the society. Kuhls of Himachal Pradesh are one such example of engineering brilliance.
Kuhl is name given to a channel which carries glacial melt through gravity from nearby streams to the fields thus making irrigation possible even on steep hills. Kangra valley has the most extensive network of kuhls dating as far back as 17th century. While kings, queens and other elite families sponsored the large kuhls, commoners contributed their own labour to build smaller ones with local materials. Every summer, the farmers would repair the kuhl and divert water of nearby stream into the channels running through all the farms. A water manager, called Kohli, used to supervise the work and allocate water on equal terms. The farmers in return would give him a share of the produce.
Today, both the kuhl and kohli are fighting a lost battle. Increase in non-farm employment and availability of cheap grains through public distribution system (PDS) have led to many families quitting farming. As Irrigation and Public Health Department took over management of kuhls, the gap between community and its resource further increased putting those on lowest rung of the society at mercy of the distant government authorities. The department has been concretising the kuhls making it difficult to repair them locally unlike earlier times when mud and stone were used. With decline of kuhl has declined the authority of kohli and he is finding it difficult to gather people for the annual maintenance work.
This video talks about all this and more.
This video was made with support of India Water Portal.