The study examines the relationship between law, technology and water conflicts from colonial days to the present in traditional (water) tank systems in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Tanks are man-made water systems developed for irrigation and many other purposes in semi-arid areas. The thesis adopts a
historical approach to study the development of law, particularly property rights, and takes an empirical approach to investigate the tank conflicts. Archival
documents on irrigation development, Case laws, Focus Group Discussions, Open ended Interviews and Field visits to selected tank chains are used as source
material for the discussion. Case studies of conflicts are described and analyzed at three levels - Vaigai river basin for a macro level, Kothai Anicut system in Cauvery basin for a meso level, and twenty other interconnected tanks for a micro-level.
The thesis deviates from the conventional understanding that tanks as traditional systems as simple and local technologies but considers them to be complex. It
argues that the use of commonly held systems such as tanks within the colonial and post colonial laws as state ownership has been the source of many conflicts.
In particular, it finds most tank conflicts are a product of progressive and absolute state control over water and the systems established using colonial land revenue administrative law. The law continues to treat tanks as pieces of landed property held by state and the individuals rather than as technology systems that
presupposed the regime of property rights introduced after the colonial times. The modern interventions in water including the reservoir building, and altering
the hydraulics of rivers and streams aggravate tank conflicts and lead to their further detriment. The study brings the focus to ground realities, and offers new perspectives on understanding tank systems in dynamic ways.