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Persistence, Transformation and Demise within the Gravity Flow Irrigation Systems (Kuhls) of Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Baker, J. Mark
Conference: Workshop on the Co-Operative Management of Water Resources
Location: the Centre for India and South Asian Research, Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Conf. Date: December 15-17, 1997
Date: 1997
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1577
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): irrigation
water resources
participatory development
state and local governance
Abstract: "The inability of centrally organized, large scale irrigation and afforestation programs to efficiently and equitably manage water, forest, and related resources has led government planners, non-government organizations, and researchers to turn to local, community-based resource management alternatives. The advocacy of local, co-operative management of natural resources in recent years has produced India's widely acclaimed programs for Joint Forest Management (JFM), numerous water user's associations responsible for the management and distribution of water at the delivery end of large irrigation projects, and other local management initiatives such as pani panchayats and the revitalization of irrigation tanks. The devolution of management authority to more local arenas is aimed at promoting equitable resource management and investment in natural resource systems, reducing inefficient resource use and conflict between state and local entities, and satisfying local natural resource needs. However, the failure of centrally organized resource management programs does not imply the success of local,community-based resource management efforts. Key questions remain unanswered concerning the equity effects of local resource management, the conditions under which meaningful participation is more or less likely, the nature of state-local relations and their effects on resource management and use, the role of possible interdependent or exchange relations between different 'local' systems of resource use, and the patterns of investment and resource extraction associated with local resource management.By analyzing contemporary transformations in the farmer-managed gravity flow irrigation systems of Himachal Pradesh, known as kuhls, I hope to shed light on three issues pertinent to this workshop. The first concerns participation - what it is and when it occurs. I investigate the conditions under which local participation in water management is more or less likely, the factors which influence effective participation, and local responses to the problems and conflicts associated with declining participation. The second concerns state-local relations, by which I mean the relationships between local resource managers and users, and government agencies and the civil administration. The kuhl irrigation systems reflect a wide variety of different state roles in local irrigation management. I will discuss both the nature and effects of these different state roles, the influence of the bureaucratic state on kuhl organization and the effects of that organization on local power relations. Thirdly, I address the possible adaptive functions of inter-kuhl linkages. I show that many kuhls irrigate multiple villages and many villages are engaged with multiple kuhls. I suggest that the resulting networks of interdependent kuhls can facilitate the persistence of individual irrigation systems. This may be analogous to tank irrigation systems which, when viewed at a higher scale of analysis, become parts of larger basin-wide or regional water management systems."

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