A Research Companion to Water Transitions around the Globe
Edited by Dave Huitema and Sander Meijerink
Chapter 7: Where Does Policy Change Come From? And Where Does it End Up? Establishing Water User Associations in Large-Scale Canal Irrigation Systems in India
Vishal Narain 7.1 Introduction In most developing countries the state has made huge investments in large-scale canal irrigation. It has also played a predominant role in managing and operating these systems. However canal irrigation has been plagued by several problems. In India, for instance, the most widely known difficulties have arisen over inequity in water distribution between head and tail reaches, water logging, low recovery from irrigation fees, mismanagement of irrigation infrastructure and a widening gap between irrigation potential created and functions utilized. Different approaches to addressing these issues have been advocated and experimented with, emphasizing both technological and institutional interventions. The latter have included rights reform and market creation, pricing and decentralization. A need for a greater role for farmers in the management of irrigation systems has also been perceived and advocated as a solution to the above mentioned problems. This trend is referred to variously as irrigation management transfer (IMT), irrigation management turnover or participatory irrigation management (PIM) (Turral, 1995; Brewer et al., 1999; EDI, 1998). IMT is defined as the transfer of responsibility and authority for irrigation system management from government agencies to water user associations or other private entities (IndianPIM, 2001). IMT may include transfer of decision-making authority (or governance); it may also include transfer of ownership of scheme infrastructure (typically called privatization). PIM refers to programmes that seek to increase farmers’ direct involvement in system management – either as a complement or as a substitute for the state role (EDI, 1998). Activities classified as PIM or...
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