Programme  Poster session 1  abstract 427

Institutional diversity, market pressure and performance of irrigation systems: Comparative perspective in Nepal and Thailand

Author(s): Ganesh P. Shivakoti, Ram Chandra Bastakoti
Professor Ganesh P Shivakoti School of Environment, Resources and Development Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand Phone: +66 2 524 6369 Fax: +66 2 524 6431 Email:

Keyword(s): Institutions, Irrigation, Market, Performance, Nepal, Thailand

Article: abs427_article.pdf
Poster: abs427_poster.pdf
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Session: Poster session 1
AbstractIn many Asian countries irrigation management is most important concern

due to significant contribution of agriculture in their national economy. But the performance of irrigation sector is not

satisfactory despite of efforts on irrigation development and management. In this context the assessment of

institutional dynamics and its influence on performance of irrigation systems is of utmost importance. Some efforts

have been made on institutional decomposition and analyzing institution-performance interaction at national level, the

issues at system level remains unanswered. More importantly, those studies did not measure exogenous influencing

factor explicitly. Some research focused on analysis of system level performance but did not consider the influence of

institutional aspects.
This paper aims to understand institutional dynamics and performance of irrigation systems

amid the change in macro level political, economic and social settings in the country. Taking cases of Nepal and

Thailand, both of which have a significantly large irrigation sector, we analyze these issues both at cross-national and

intra-country level. We selected 50 irrigation systems from each country covering major river basins of both

countries representing different ecological regions as well. Irrigation systems are selected based on three criteria;

ecological region, economic characteristics and management structure.
In Nepal the new irrigation policy brought

out after the political changes of 1990 laid emphasis on participatory approach of irrigation management in the form

of transfer of management responsibility from government to users. The result showed that with the changes in

irrigation policy the management responsibility of many government built irrigation systems has been transferred to

the users. The water users associations of traditional farmer managed irrigations systems are also registered formally

to related authorities. In Thailand, government focused on building more irrigation capacity thus constructing large

irrigation systems in many parts of the country. The result showed that after the adoption of participatory irrigation

management policy government encouraged people’s participation in irrigation management. At present, users are

directly involved in management of large irrigation systems at tertiary canal level. Similarly, traditional communal

irrigation systems at northern Thailand received support for system infrastructure improvement including some

interference in governance as well.
It has been noted that market pressures and other related economic factors

have significant influence on institutional arrangements. In Nepal the command areas of majority of irrigation systems

include cereal-based subsistence agriculture with only few systems having commercial vegetable farming. But the

market-led economy of Thailand has created condition for diversification in farming practices resulting into increased

area under high water demanding commercial crops. The changing water demand scenario has ultimately influenced

the collective action for irrigation systems management.
Our observation implies that the broader policy changes

have resulted into different institutional arrangements. Though the emphasis has been given to direct involvement of

users in management, insufficient attention to the autonomy and unity of traditional irrigation systems and changing

water demand scenario has significantly affected overall performance of irrigation systems. The economic, social and

other external influencing factors are crucial in determining institutional arrangements which in-turn affects


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