IJCRR - Vol 03 Issue 08, August, 2011
Date of Publication: 30-Nov--0001
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SOCIAL INTERACTIONS AMONG MULTIPLE USERS OF \"TANK IRRIGATION SYSTEM\" AND ITS MANAGEMENT
Author: C. Karthikeyan, K. Palanisami
Category: General Sciences
Abstract:An irrigation tank is a small reservoir constructed across the slope of a valley to catch and store water
during the rainy season so it can be used for irrigation during the dry season. The survival of tank
irrigation systems in India is challenged by growing scarcity and competition among multiple users over
water resources. This paper examines the social interaction processes among the multiple users of tank
irrigation systems and draws implications for sustainable management of the tanks. A random sample of
31 tanks in tank intensive district of Tamil Nadu state which had maximum number of uses were selected
for the study.. About 15 key informants were purposively identified from each of these tanks for data
collection through participatory rural appraisal. The results reveal that, head and tail end farmers of the
tank command competed for irrigation water. Competing users include encroachers, fish and duck
farmers. Conflicts in sharing water occurred mostly between adjacent farmers due to overuse of water as
against their allotted share. Existence of weak property rights in tanks remained as the reason for the
competition and conflicts. Conflicts aroused during water scarcity conditions and were mostly settled by
the community leaders and water users association (WUA). Damaged of the tank structures, encroachers
of tank and presence of conflicting interests among the multiple users remained as the major causes for
the conflicts. WUA must play major role in promoting the collective actions among user groups to use the
tank resources sustainably. Strategic actions for sustainable management and conservation of the water
resource are highlighted.
Keywords: Irrigation tanks, Multi-users, Competition, Conflicts, Collective action.
Irrigation systems are generally viewed in terms of their ability to provide water for crop production thus concentrating on the development of agriculture and farming communities. However irrigation systems also support a host of other non-agricultural and domestic activities to satisfy the needs of a number of user groups which are often overlooked. Meinzen-Dick and Bakker (2000) reported other uses of irrigation systems as supporting home gardens, livestock, fishing, aquatic products, brick-making, domestic uses such as drinking, cooking, bathing, washing, recreation, and environmental uses, including recharging groundwater, flushing contaminants, and supporting wildlife. In India, an irrigation tank is a small reservoir constructed across the slope of a valley to catch and store water. In rural areas of India, a 'tank' is typically used for multiple purposes such as irrigation, forestry, fodder, livestock drinking, fisheries, duck rearing, brick making, collection of silt, washing and bathing (Palanisami et al., 2001). For all practical purposes, tanks became Common Property Resource (CPR); all farmers who owned land in the command area of a tank had access to the tank water. From a legal perspective, common property refers to the distribution of property rights in a resource where a well-defined set of users has a set of well-defined but not necessarily equal-rights to use the resource, while all potential users not belonging to the group are excluded (Howe, 1979). Being a CPR, the water spread area and catchment area of the tanks were occupied by poor individuals illegally for cultivation/residential purpose and they were referred as encroachers who also compete for water from tank. Many of the demands for water are increasing, or at least are perceived as increasing with the result that there appears to be growing stress on the available water resources. The main driver in this process is the increasing population in the catchments, along with other socio-economic forces such as government liberalization policies, resulting in greater demand for water and other natural resources in the catchments (Franks et al., 2004). This indicates that whenever a resource base is shared by multiple user groups, naturally there will be social interactions among the user groups that may lead to expression of competition and conflicts. Many farmer- managed irrigation systems have been in operation for centuries and have been the subject of study for decades (Ostrom, 1992; Wade, 1994). However, the survival of such systems is challenged by changing property rights regimes, livelihood strategies, and growing scarcity and competition over water resources. Recognizing the multiple uses of water in tank irrigation systems and the social interactions among the users is critical for arriving at sustainable water management policy. Research is needed on how to move from a sense of competition to win-win cooperation among multiple users of water resource.. The objective of this paper is to examine the social interaction processes in terms of competition and conflicts among the multiple users of tank irrigation systems in India and draw implications for sustainable management of the tank system. The Context Tank irrigation contributes significantly to agricultural production in parts of South and Southeast Asia. Tank irrigation as a socioeconomic activity in India dates back to 5th century. In the semi-arid regions of India there are around 120,000 small-scale tanks, irrigating about 4.12 million ha. (Anbumozhi et al., 2001). Tanks account for approximately one-third of the total irrigated area in three states (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka) of South India (Palanisami et al., 2001). Tanks also have many positive attributes such as providing ecological benefits ranging from recharging ground water and moderating floods to serving as habitat to birds and wild life. In Tamil Nadu state of south India, there were 39,000 tanks with varying sizes and types. The non-system tanks (that depended on the rainfall in their own catchment area and are not connected to major streams or reservoirs) accounted for 85 percent of the total tanks in the state. The system tanks (which receive supplemental water from major streams or reservoirs in addition to the yield of their own catchment area) accounted for about 15 percent of the total. The recent decades have recorded the declining trend in the contribution of tanks to irrigation from about 40 percent in Tamil Nadu in 1955 to less than 25 percent in 2000 (Balasubramanian and Selvaraj, 2004). This indicates that there is an urgent need to sustain the contribution of tanks to irrigation and to provide better solution to the tank user communities which largely depended on the tank systems to earn their livelihood. Appropriate policies are needed to sustain the tank irrigation scenario in the state. One of the perspectives to work out the needed policy is to examine the existing competition and conflicts in sharing the tank resources equitably among the tank users leading to the sustainable management of the tank systems.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Selection of tanks
?Tank-chain? approach was followed to select the tank samples since most of the tanks in the state falls in chains and not in isolation. Sample tanks were considered to be drawn from chains covering both head and tail end. Four tankchains were selected randomly from each of the two tank intensive districts of Tamil Nadu state, thus making a total of eight tank-chains. From each tank-chain, four tanks were selected which included two from head end and two located at tail end of the tank-chain. Considering the presence of maximum number of tank uses and maximum number of users who depended on tanks as the criteria, a sample of 31 non-system type of tanks was drawn randomly from the selected tank-chains.
Selection of respondents (tank users)
A group of 12-15 tank users (key informants) comprising agricultural, non-agricultural and domestic users were drawn purposively from each of the selected tank villages. In selecting the key informants, representation was given to include all user groups/category of users of a tank such as: older farmers/farm women, village head man, WUA office bearers, SHG women member, Village Panchayat leader, caste group representative, silt users, brick makers, domestic user, tree user, fish right holders, livestock farmer etc. so that adequate data about the research issue could be collected.. Data collection Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) was conducted in each of the 31 selected tank villages with the group of selected key informants . Transect walk, rapport building, group discussion and triangulation were the techniques of PRA handled to gather data regarding the key research questions on social interaction processes among tank users. A semistructured interview schedule covering questions on the aspects namely, pattern of competition and conflicts among and between various user groups was developed and administered during the conduct of PRA in each of the selected tanks . Percentage analysis was done to understand the distribution regarding the pattern of social interactions observed in the sample tanks.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Social Interactions among users in tank system
As the tanks in the state supported agricultural, non-agricultural and domestic uses there existed various user groups exhibiting different patterns of social interaction processes. Two major types of social interactions namely, competition and conflict were documented and the results on this aspect is presented.
Pattern of competition among the farmers of
Competition existed among the multiple users of the tank system in utilizing the tank water.. The major competitor for tank water was the farmers; the pattern of competition that existed among them was analyzed. Table 1 reveals that seven types of competition that existed among and between farmers group. The most common pattern of competition recorded in nearly three-fourth of the sampled tanks was among and within the head or tail end farmers of the tank command area for the use of tank water to irrigate their paddy crop. The other two common types of competition noted were between head and tail end farmers (70.97 %) and between the encroachers who had occupied the common property resource for cultivating paddy crop with the command area farmers (67.74%). In about 55% tanks there existed competition between those farmers who depended on water from upper sluice and that of their counterparts namely the lower sluice farmers as well as competition between the farmers whose command area was spread over more than one village (48.39%). More than one-fourth of the tanks (29%) recorded competition between farmers who owned wells and those who depended solely on tanks for irrigation as well as between day v/s night irrigators. It is a common practice that not all the farmers of the tank command area completed transplanting of paddy in a day for want of labour and other resources . The stage of the crop in the field thus varied for some farmers and this difference created competition for water among the farmers. Such competition was observed among the farmers located at either within the head end or the tail end to acquire their share of water ahead of other farmers and this leads to competition among farmers . Likewise the farmers between the head and tail ends also compete for water as. tail end farmers are of the impression that the water available in the tank might not be adequate for both them and those at the head end.. Encroachers also claim the tank water to irrigate their fields and competed with the command area farmers for water. . Whenever the tank was full the order for opening the sluices would be upper first then lowest last However when the water in the tank was not found to be adequate to irrigate the entire command, then there existed competition between those farmers who depended on upper sluice and other sluices. In the case where the command area for one tank spread over more than one village it wasconventional that the village in which the tank was located got the preference to irrigate followed by other villages in an order. However there existed competition among the different villagers whenever the water in the tank was found to be inadequate. It can be inferred that competition among and between farmers aroused particularly during water scarcity period. Although there existed norms and rules to share water conventionally, these rules were not strictly followed by the farmers at the time of water scarcity. Stronger water rights will apply even during periods of scarcity—dry seasons and drought years, while weaker rights may be denied (MeinZen-Dick and Bakker, 2000). Hence it is inferred that the existence of weak water rights (rights not enforced strictly) in majority of the tanks remained as the reason for the competition that may even lead to conflict among users.
Pattern of competition existing between the multiple users of tank
Apart from farmers, competition for using the tank water was recorded between the various tank user groups. These patterns of competitions were studied and the results are given in Table 2. The results revealed three patterns of competition and the most predominant one was noted between agriculture and fishery use in 52% of the tanks. Agricultural use was also found to compete with duck rearing to an extent of 19% of the tanks. In about 13% of the tanks the uses namely fishery and duck rearing competed with each other. These patterns of competition were observed during water scarcity periods. The competition between agricultural and fishery uses aroused due to the reason that fishermen wanted to retain water in the tank at certain levels to rear fish successfully whereas the farmers in the command area wanted to use the water from the tank beyond the specified limit to irrigate. Hence there was conflicting interest between the two user groups in the use of the tank water . In the case of the well owned farmers (agricultural use) and duck farmers, the competition arose due to the desire of the well owners to retain the water below sluice level as reserve for recharge of wells present in the tank command, whereas the duck farmers needed the water to feed their ducks. Hence both user groups competed for the tank water. This case was observed to an extent of one-fifth of the tanks. It could be concluded that competition to share tank water arose during periods of scarcity only. Farmers were found to be the major competitors for tank water. Other competing user groups for tank water include fish and duck growers. Competition for tank water among domestic use(r) s was not observed in any of the tanks
Pattern of conflict among the multi-users of tank system
Conflicts exist in a relationship when tank users believe that their aspirations cannot be achieved simultaneously. Indeed, conflicts in tank resources management can be understood to entail strategic planning by one user as a means of out-competing other interested users. The fundamental cause of conflicts over tank resources founded on actual or perceived scarcity of the resource at issue seems to be the differing goals of the parties. The main factors which have fueled the various conflicts being experienced include increasing economic needs which impinge on resource conservation and management; non adoption of mutually agreed mechanisms for promoting equity and fairness in sharing benefits arising from the use of tank resources; and ineffective functioning of informal/formal institutional arrangements that would promote equitable distribution and use. These conflicts have been aggravated by rapidly changing climatic conditions. As the origin of such conflicts was predominantly at the local level, their escalation depends on the absence or presence of mechanisms for conflict resolution and management. Various measures have been taken to resolve or manage resource conflicts at different levels. Indeed the provisions for use rights ought to be understood in the context of resolving community based tank resource based conflicts. In the context of the multiple users of tank system, four major patterns of conflicts were observed. They were conflicts among farmers, conflicts between user groups, conflicts between controlling authority and user group and intervillage conflicts. The results are presented as follows
Conflicts among farmers
It was observed that competition that existed either among or between users for tank water remained as a major cause for the conflicts. Hence the pattern of conflicts among farmers was observed in the same proportion of tanks as it was analyzed for competition and the results are presented in Table 3. The results reveal that the conflicts among and/or between head end and tail end farmers for the use of water was found to be the most popular type of conflict that prevailed among farmers in more than half of the tanks studied. The main reason for the conflict being the priority to use water for agriculture between head and tail end farmers involved. Other types of conflicts observed among farmers at scarcity period, in about onethird of the tanks include encroachers Vs farmers (35.48%), upper sluice Vs lower sluice farmers to follow the simultaneous release of water in both upper and lower sluice of tank (32.25%), between the command area farmers of two villages (25.80%) to share water for irrigation. Other minor conflicts observed among farmers were between well owners and non-well owners (9.67%) and between day and night irrigators (9.67%) due to overuse of water without giving due respect to the customaryrules/rights of their tank command for sharing the water for agriculture. Conflicts among farmers occurred mostly between adjacent farmers due to overuse of water by few individuals as against their allotted share of water at the time of scarcity. Encroachment of tank was seen at different parts of a tank system namely supply channel, catchment‘s area, foreshore area, tank bed etc. Due to the encroachment of the common lands in these locations, water filling in the tank gets reduced which in turn affected the availability of water for the farmers in the command area. Apart from this the encroachers in the foreshore area break open the tank bund thus avoiding the water to get filled unto full tank level. These facts remained as the cause for the conflict between encroachers and farmers in the tank command. The reasons attributed for the different patterns of competition among and between farmers holds good for various types of conflicts also
Conflicts between user groups Seven types
of conflicts were observed between the multiple users of tank system. The results are presented in the Table 4. At the time of water scarcity the farmers and fish rearers competed for the water that was present just above the lower sluice level to satisfy their economic interest which resulted in conflict between them. Conflict aroused between agricultural use and fishery use in 32 per cent of the tanks. Fish rearer felt that the water just above the lower sluice level is needed for the successful growth of fish, whereas some farmers felt that even that amount of water should also be used to raise their crop. Hence the conflict between these two uses. In order to protect the crop from livestock that approached the tank either for drinking or grazing purpose, the encroachers in tank bed prevented the entry of livestock resulting in conflict with the live stock owners. This type of conflict was observed in 25.80 % of the tanks Among these, about one-fifth of the tanks recorded conflict between social forestry and live stock grazing (19.36%). In order to promote the initial growth of the tree seedlings for a period of three years from planting, the Department of social forestry prevented the entry of livestock for the purpose of grazing into the tree plantation area (created in the tank bed). Hence conflicts aroused between the forest guards appointed by the department of social forestry and the live stock owners if they made their illegal entry into tank bed area to graze their animals. About one-tenth of the tanks had recorded the conflict between farmers and duck owners due to various reasons. The major cause being, the ducks destroyed the standing crops of second season planted by well owners at the time of consuming the harvested remains of first season crop in the tank command. Other perceptions of farmers such as loss of beneficial insects due to consumption by the ducks leading to increased pest prevalence, the excreta of duck caused irritation to the walkers in the field during intercultural operation were the causes for such conflict between farmers and duck rearers. The villagers felt that the existence of tree plantation in the tank bed remained as a source for the presence of thorns in the silt which affected during the collection of silt by the farmers. Besides this the existence of tree plantation increased the harboring of silt in the tank bed which again affected the water storing capacity of the tank. As only few farmers collected silt, the collective action process by all users for desilting was negligible. Hence conflicts aroused between the social forestry and agricultural uses. Duck rearing in tank command area needed some amount of water to wet the harvested field to facilitate the easy consumption of paddy remains by the ducks. But in some tanks the fish rearers objected the release of water for duck feeding purpose in order to enhance the growthof fish in the tank. Hence conflicts aroused between fish and duck rearers in less than onetenth of the tanks studied. The collection of silt by some farmers to fertilize their lands or by the doll makers and others in random pockets from the tank left the tank bed with pits and undulated surface. This in fact facilitated enhanced water storage capacity in the tank. However the tail end farmers objected the actions of desilters stating that their share of water was not made easily available as most of the water gets stagnated (in the pits) below sluice level due to desilting. This situation had resulted in conflict between tail end farmers and desilters in less than one tenth of the tanks studied. It can be concluded that conflicts aroused among different users due to the vested interests of few users to overlook the rules and tried to grab their share of water early than their fellow users. Although different patterns of conflicts existed among multiple users of the tank system, such conflicts aroused only during water scarcity conditions and were mostly settled by the community leaders and water users association functioning in the area. However the effectiveness of these associations to enforce the rules for sharing the tank resources at the time of water scarce conditions was not found to be well pronounced.
In Tamil nadu the tanks were managed by two organizations depending on the size of the command area covered by the tanks for irrigation. Those tanks with a command area of less than 40Ha are owned and managed by the Panchayat Union (PU) officials and if the area is more than 40 Ha then it was managed by the Water Resources Organisation (WRO). The results reveal that there existed conflict between farmers and the management authority of the tanks namely either the officials of PU or the WRO in 50 per cent of the tanks. The major reason for such conflicts was due to the long pending demands of the farmers to attend the repair and maintenance works of the tanks. Another case of conflict of this type was observed between the Irrigation Functionary (IF) and farmers. The IF was locally called as 'neerkatti' or 'neerpaichi' or 'kambukatti'. IF were appointed by the Water Users Association (WUA) and one of their responsibilities was to distribute water in the tank command for irrigation proportionate to the ayacut farmers as per the norms fixed by the WUA. In few cases, these IF had done their job in biased manner to favour some farmers by violating the fixed norms for want of satisfying their personal gains. Hence conflicts between IF and farmers were observed in about one-fifth of the tanks. Inter-village conflicts Inter-village conflicts were observed in one-third of the tanks due to reasons such as encroachment of supply channel and main channel for crop cultivation by neighboring village farmers, overflow of water from tank due to lack of surplus weir or broken bunds, fish theft by neighboring villagers, arresting the water flow to neighboring tank by some individuals and diverting/grabbing of water directly from supply channel. Apart from competition and conflicts, there were also a few complementarities observed among some uses. Well owners and fisheries in the tank both benefit from the stored water left after the tank season is over. Similarly brick making and desilting have some complementarities, as the silt may be used for making bricks.
Resolution of conflicts
All patterns of conflicts among or between the multiple user groups of tank irrigation system were settled by the process of counseling or mediation lead by the officers of the WUA or jointly with the help of the elderly and respectable persons of the village.. In some villages the mediation was led by the villagehead man or the President of the village Panchayat, who is an elected member of the local self government. The issues were almost settled locally by the process of counseling ending up with win-win situation. In some deserving cases, the WUA fined the users who deviated from the water sharing norms that were laid down by the WUA. In the past say two decades back, the norms laid by the WUA for sharing water and other tank benefits like fish and fodder were strictly adhered by the user groups and the benefits were shared equitably among the user groups (Palanisami et al 2001). However in recent years these WUA have lost their importance and they were almost disappearing due to the various reasons such as growth of wells in the tank command, poor maintenance of tank structures, lack of cooperation by users, frequent monsoon failure etc (Karthikeyan et al., 2009).
The head and tail end farmers of the tank command competed for the use of tank water for irrigation. Other competing user groups include encroachers, fish and duck rearers. Conflicts in sharing water among farmers occurred mostly between adjacent farmers due to overuse of water as against their allotted share. Existence of weak property rights in majority of the tanks remained as the major reason for the competition among tank users that led to conflicts.. The extent of use clearly makes certain uses competitive. Conflicts aroused due to the conflicting interests of different user groups on tank resources and lack of maintenance of tank structures. Hence, it is needed that the use and control rights should be well structured, defined and enforced strictly in such a way that maximum benefits will be obtained by all user groups. For example, specification of the level and duration of water storage in the tank for specified months will help the fish as well as irrigation uses effectively. It could be stated thatone or other type of conflicts were observed in almost all the tanks. Damaged condition of the tank structures and presence of conflicting interests to satisfy their respective needs by the multiple users remained as the major cause for the conflicts among the multiple users. Therefore, tank rehabilitation and modernization programs need to be taken up in tank systems of the state in a phased manner to renovate the existing physical structures and restore the effective utilization of the tank by all users without competition and conflicts Encroachers of common property remained as a source of conflict in sharing the tank benfits. The encroachers reduced the water level in the tanks by illegally opening the sluices / damaging the surplus weirs to avoid submergence of their crops cultivated in the tank bed. Considering the negative consequences, the practice of encroachment in tanks needs to be pruned completely through enactment and enforcement of strict rules and it should be enforced within the framework of socioeconomic and environmental perspectives. Strengthening and empowering the WUA to manage the tanks and control the tank resources could be an innovation in the institutional arrangement to promote collective action of the tank users and facilitate sustainable management of tank irrigation system in South India.
The authors wish to acknowledge the International Foundation for Science (IFS), Sweden for providing a research grant (No. S/4334-1 dated 15th August ‘07) to the first author during 2007-09 to carry out this study at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, India. The efforts taken to peer review the report of the IFS project by Prof. Allan Curtis, Charles Sturt University, NSW, Australia is sincerely acknowledged.
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