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Problems and Prospects

R. Rangachari

Edited by Ganesh P. Shivakodi
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 528, Rs. 850.00


Successful management of irrigation goes well beyond the manage- ment of the infrastructure, by encompassing management of human relations, institutional and organizational dimensions and irrigation policies. The recent three decades have also seen sweeping socio-economic and environmental challenges that have significant impact on irrigated agriculture and the management of irrigation systems in Asia. The new challenges relate to at least three aspects—competing needs for water, ensuring accountability and the partnership between the public, community and private sectors and reforms. A “Workshop on Asian Irrigation in Transition” held at the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, in April 2002 and, the book under review is an edited selection of many of the papers presented.   The book presents the papers and the Asian experience, under the following heads: General perspectives on transition; Responses to competition for resources; Institutional reforms and new partnership; Markets and economic productivity of irrigated agriculture and synthesis and strategic responses. Randolph Barker and Francois Molle have traced the evolution of irrigation in South and Southeast Asia since 1850, with emphasis often varying between many social and economic objectives. They feel that there has been serious lag in the implementation of appropriate institutions to deal with the new environment of water scarcity. The challenge ahead lies in reforming the existing institutions adequately and an important component of meeting future challenges will be integrated water resource management (IWRM). The problems of irrigation development also need to be addressed effectively and it is likely to take decades to establish enforceable water rights and a complementary set of institutions associated with IWRM.   Norman P. Uphoff says that the relationships between social capital and improved irrigation management are multiple, but these still remain mostly unexamined in systemic terms. He urges that better attention must be paid to social capital needed to manage and sustain irrigation systems in the future. He cites the case of Gal Oya scheme in Sri Lanka, which he thinks could be relevant in this context. In his view, Asian countries must figure out how to multiply agricultural production in the coming decades with less land and water per capita available. Nirmal Sengupta explores the barriers to change. He complains that private initiative is not permitted in water resource development in river valley areas, suitable for canal irrigation and that the planning and development there is left to government agencies. Moreover, he feels that options are considered only at the investigation stage ...

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