Josh LaPenna, director of utilities production at Cornell’s Lake Source Cooling facility, explains the plant’s operation to a group of hydrologists involved in the Tamil Nadu-Irrigated Agriculture Modernization Project.

Cornell, Tamil Nadu to collaborate on climate-smart agriculture

An agreement signed in January between Cornell and the drought-stricken Indian state of Tamil Nadu has brought a delegation of engineers from India to Cornell for three days of learning about the latest in water resource management.

“Water is the critical link between the climate, humans and the environment, and no resource is as critical to human survival,” said Ronnie Coffman, director of International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (IP-CALS), welcoming members of the Tamil Nadu-Irrigated Agriculture Modernization Project (TN-IAMP).

“We want to expand future project opportunities,” Coffman said, “and we want the visiting team to understand the latest research and advances in irrigation and water science.”

The Tamil Nadu team, consisting of three principal secretaries and six water specialists, is in Ithaca April 22-24 meeting with faculty and senior administrators at Cornell, and participating in field tours related to water management and irrigation.

“Tamil Nadu is one of the water-starved states of India,” said Vibhu Nayar, principal secretary and TN-IAMP project director. “This exposure visit will enhance the state’s ability to mitigate the frequent droughts and floods through policy interventions, advanced or improved technologies in conjunction with the application of water and water productivity.”

The visit builds on a memorandum of understanding finalized between CALS and Tamil Nadu in January to develop a robust partnership with Cornell, especially IP-CALS, which includes internships, student and faculty exchanges, and projects in horticulture, agribusiness and animal husbandry.

Funded by the World Bank, TN-IAMP is a multidisciplinary project with the prime objective of “more income per drop of water.” Project scientists hope to improve water productivity in Tamil Nadu through the irrigation of more cultivated land and by employing more effective water resource management strategies. The TN-IAMP team will get hands-on exposure to climate-smart strategies for water management, technologies and practice in the U.S.

“The team is learning new technologies such as remote sensing, modeling, imaging and other tools applicable to irrigation management,” said K.V. Raman, associate director of IP-CALS, who is closely involved with the TN-IAMP. “Project staff are also learning about the integration and analysis of engineering and economic-policy issues in the context of water, land, air and human resources management.”

The agenda includes meetings with faculty and field visits to Agua Clara, the Lake Source Cooling facility and the Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Project. The team expects to learn more about how watersheds are managed in the U.S. and will travel to California and the University of California, Davis, for more hands-on learning.

“Cornell is a pioneer of purpose-driven science that works across disciplines. And CALS has a prime focus on food energy and environmental resources, and social, physical and economic well-being through world-renowned resources, education and outreach,” Nayar said. “This experience is a great opportunity for the state of Tamil Nadu to gain global cutting-edge knowledge through collaborative arrangements and it will be useful in bringing the best practices available across the globe.”

Maina Dhital is a communications specialist with IP-CALS.

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