The brief history of the Tamil Nadu Public Works Department can be traced back to the period of the East India Company as far back as to 1820s. This is the third oldest Department, the first two being the Revenue Department and Judiciary. When many parts of India came directly under the British Crown, the Public Works Department had become the Government Department in 1858. The erstwhile school of Survey and the Guindy Engineering College were also under the Public Works Department in the late 1800s.
Public Works Department is executing and maintaining all the Government buildings and all Irrigation Projects such as Dams, Canals, Tanks multifarious works such as construction of buildings, roads, bridges, culverts, water harvesting structures, implementation and maintenance of water supply in rural areas.
Assets in Brief:
Department owns 85 dams and reservoirs. The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board have got 38 dams for power generation and their water reach their reservoirs. These dams and reservoirs have got their own system canals and tanks. The State has got about 39,000 tanks out of which around 10,000 tanks are owned by Public Works Department. Out of 10,000 tanks, about 5,000 tanks are system tanks fed by Reverine channel flows. The rest 5,000 tanks are rain fed tanks. They have got a main channel length of about 9700 K.M. and more. These assets are the source for irrigating a total extent of about 69,00,000 acres. Ground water wells used for irrigation purposes only are 16,44,946 Nos.
This Department was intended primarily for the following purposes:
To maintain and upkeep of structural and non-structural components of irrigation facilities;
To develop new additional projects, structures, etc., to augment potential sources for irrigation;
To maintain, upkeep and develop buildings for the State;
To maintain and upkeep of navigation and drainage facilities;
To maintain and upkeep and to build conveyance facilities by way of roads for the agricultural produce to be moved to the interior, rail heads, ports, etc.;
To identify, investigate, formulate and estimate feasible and viable irrigation projects so that there is always a shelf of projects to implement the policy, promises and the programmes of the Government;
To conduct tests and research activities in construction materials and hydraulics and hydrology;
To conduct tests and studies on the potentials and properties of ground water.
Here it is not out of place to mention that successive Governments were rightly keen in creating water resources assets in furtherance of irrigation and agriculture by way of building dams, reservoirs, canals and numerous cross masonry structures like barrages, weirs, regulators, dykes, outlets, etc.
Further, more objectives were added in the recent past. Having harnessed the surface irrigation potential to 95% (12387 M cum), the Department’s main function has turned to be that efficient management, utilization and distribution of scarce water resources.
To work towards achieving equitable distribution of water resources for irrigation with respect to spatial and temporal distribution of the available quantum;
To instill participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) by creation of Farmers Association and supporting system through NGOs.
While sanctioning the projects, the World Bank contemplated the idea of strengthening the institution and creation of expertise in the Department having the officials as well as farmers.