Social Management of Water
Funding Agency(ies):
French Institute of Pondicherry, Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), PCSI
Principal Investigator(s):
Dr. Olivia Aubriot

Axis 2. of the Social Sciences Department /


The complete title of the project is « Local Practices and Public Policies, Sustainability of the Resource Availability for irrigation in Tamil Nadu : needs and management ».

The Agricultural Development has relied during the last few decades on water-consuming crops and on the use of groundwater, without any stock management control. The water crisis is currently aggravated by increasing needs and overuse of groundwater resulting in depletion of water tables. What are the alternatives to control the overuse of groundwater?

Formation of local Water Users Association, tank rehabilitation, less-water-consuming paddy cultivation methods, less-water-required-crop incentive programs by Government and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have recently been started to mitigate water crisis.

This project addresses the following questions:

  • How do the farmers react to these policies?
  • How do they represent and react to water issues?

The main objectives of the present research program are to analyse the implications of such developmental policies on farmers’ practices and on social vulnerability, and to compare the perception of various stakeholders on the water issue within the framework of sustainability of resource availability.

The three following research streams will be developed:

  • developmental policies vs. farmers’ organisation on irrigation management: from global decisions to local action ; irrigators’ participation and local governance; impact on farmers’ vulnerability and sustainabale agriculture.
  • farmers’ knowledge about the use of groundwater and the new pumping techniques.
  • spatial aspects of the dynamics of irrigation or the "water territories ". Availability, management, various uses and sources of water define the different "natural and human territories ", that are not delimited by administrative boundaries. Implications of such differences while implementing water policies will be investigated by a working group, that is currently being formed.

The project has strong connections with the microfinance research project as regards with the local governance issue as well as the vulnerability issue (sub-project « debt bondage »).

Materials and methods:

Based on the analysis of a few reference villages using both tank and well/borewell irrigation, Villupuram District in Tamil Nadu (located West of Pondicherry) and Pondicherry have been selected.

Information is being collected through the institutions concerned with the water issue and interviews with the local actors. Inspired by anthropological and geographical methodologies, our approach highlights social, agronomic and technical aspects and the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Team / Research topics:

Download research abstracts (.pdf)

Project Leader

  • Olivia Aubriot, agronomy and anthropology (IFP / CNRS) Conjunctive use of tank and ground water ; Conception of an atlas on irrigation use.

Research Fellows & Associate

  • P.I . Prabhakar, social anthropology (IFP) Water Users Association, power: perceptions on water issues and local socio-political linkages
  • Pierre Oliva, geography GIS & remote sensing (Université de Provence, Centre de Traitement de l’Information Géographique) Geographical database of water use

Research Collaborators to programmes

  • Devi Prasad, ecology & modelisation (University of Pondicherry; Pondicherry, Inde) Value of water
  • S. Janakarajan, socio-economy (Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, Inde) Competition use of water
  • G. Bhaskaran, geography (Madras University, Chennai, Inde) Geomorphology and irrigation potential
  • P. Jorcin, geography GIS and J. D’Souza, Social sciences (Water Harvest Auroville) Social consequences of unplanned groundwater usage
  • S. Lanau, teacher in agronomy (Centre National d’Etudes Agronomiques des Régions Chaudes, Montpellier, France) Water management in Bahour area (supervision of a collective training)
  • M. el Faïz and M. el Gouch, History (Université de Marrakech, Inde) Water users association in the Haouz of Marrakech

MA Candidates

  • Pere Ariza Montobbio, Elena Galán del Castillo, Tarik Serrano Tovar, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain) Water users association and traditional irrigation institution in two villages of Villupuram district (2007)

Past Fellows and Students

  • Florence Cesselin, agronomist (Mastere, CNEARC, Montpellier), spv O. Aubriot Groundwater and tank use inTiruvennainallur, a village of Villupuram district (2000)
  • Barbara Bentz, agronomist (Mastere, CNEARC, Montpellier), spv P. Maïzi & O. Aubriot Tanks association in four villages of Tamil NAdu : past and present (2000)
  • Sabine Girard et Gwenael Guillet, (MA Dijon), spv O. Aubriot Agriculture and migration in a dry village (2000)
  • Lucille Caillot, engineer (MA, Ecole Supérieure Européenne d’Ingénierie de l’Espace Rural, Poisy , France) spv O. Aubriot Domestic water in a village of Tamil Nadu : use and pratices (2005)
  • Collective training of 11 students, Agronomy, water management speciality (CNEARC, Montpellier), spv S. Lanau, MJ Valony, O. Aubriot, P.I. Prabhakar XX Water management in four villages of Bahour area(2006)
  • Nicolas Cayon-Carrière, agronomist (ingineer, CNEARC, Montpellier), spv M. Roesch & O. Aubriot Rentability of irrigated agriculture in a village of Pondicherry (2006)
  • Olivier Lefebvre, hydrogeology & agronomy (ingineer, CNEARC, Montpellier), spv O. Aubriot Groundwater water budgeting in a village of Pondicherry
  • University of Pondicherry; Pondicherry, India
  • Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, India
  • Université de Provence, Aix en Provence, France
  • Université de Marrakech, Morroco
  • Centre National d’Etudes Agronomiques des Régions Chaudes, Montpellier, France
  • Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain) Non governmental institutions:
  • Water Harvest, Auroville, India

Staff ( IFP & External )

AUBRIOT O., Associated researcher