Managing Water Commons and the Extent of their Climate Resilience in Punjab, Pakistan

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"Participatory irrigation management through involvement of farmers in the planning and operation of irrigation system is considered an effective way of enhancing efficiency and equity of irrigation water. Given the ongoing challenges of water shortage and climate change, Pakistan has started reforming her irrigation system by partially transferring management from government to farmers and farmer organizations. The devolution of irrigation management from government managed system to farmer managed system is expected to bring substantial improvements due to ownership of the system and collective actions of farmers. However, the effectiveness of current reforms and collective actions of farmers in the face of climate risks needs investigation. Therefore, the current research was implemented to identify whether the management of water commons has the potential to face the water scarcity risks in the wake of climate change challenges. In addition, the study also identified the shortcomings that confront farmers’ associations in managing water commons. In the end the study also proposed strategies to cope with risks posed by climate change to farmer organizations. The data on management of water commons was collected from five Khal Panchayat (KP) (watercourse level user association). These KPs were selected from four villages located along Gogera Branch canal in district Faisalabad of Punjab province, Pakistan. Both qualitative and quantitative data was collected in all five KPs through focus group discussions to assess the existence and strength of presence of Ostrom’s design principles. The design principles existed to varying degrees across the five KPs and their strength of presence also varied. It was found that all five KP had in-built coping mechanisms to deal with water shortage issues through redrawing of Warabandi (water allocation) system. It was easier for KP to change water allocation due to collective action mechanism which allowed adaptation to changes in water availability. The improvements brought in by KP in the management of water commons are in the form of increased preparedness of farmers towards future water scarcity due to the risk of climate change. This preparedness is leveraged by Khal Panchayat due to swift and widely accepted conflict resolution mechanism, enforcement mechanism, and graduated sanctions. The collective action of KP makes it better prepared and resourced to deal with canal water scarcity and change in rainfall pattern by responding in mutually acceptable manner. It was concluded that KP were better equipped to face climate change and were more climate resilient as against government managed system whereby the response time is too long. It is also important to report that the farmers in the study area did not consider groundwater as a common pool resource and it was completely unregulated. This can have substantial negative effects in the future. Keeping in view the findings of this study that irrigation management is superior through KP, it was recommended to expedite and upscale the use of common pool water resource management in other parts of Punjab."



water resources, collective action, scarcity, resilience