IWRA World Water Congress 2008 Montpellier France
4. Development of Water Resources and Infrastructure
Dr. Madhusudan Bhattarai
Mr. Phonsvisay Aloun
Corresponding Address of the author:
AVRDC -The World Vegetable Center
P. O. Box 42, Shanhua, Tainan,
Taiwan 74199, ROC
Phone (+ 886-6) 583-7801 Ext 460 (O), 808 (H)
Fax: (+886-6) 583- 0009
irrigation impacts on wetland livelihoods, fish and aquatic resources, food security, joint management of irrigation and
wetlands, Laos, Mekong river basin
AbstractBackground and objectives:
Given the magnitude of investments and thrust in irrigation in Asia, there
are very few detailed case studies on environmental ramifications of smallholder irrigation on wetlands that analyzes
the complex interlinkages among the factors. The irrigaton impacts on wetlands and rural livelihoods (economic and
resources substitution effects) channel through income and employment effects in a rural economy. In contradictory
to the case of large irrigation schemes, very little is known on smallholder irrigation implications on sustainability of
aquatic resources uses and wetand livelihoods. This study picks up this point, analyzes how smallholder irrigation has
affected wetland ecosystems and rural livelihoods in one village in Laos. This study is an output of a reginal
collaborative project between IUCN (through MWBP) and IWMI. .
Scheme Description: Pump irrigation
with 100 ha of potential irrigated area, two lift pump are mounted on a floating boat on Xe Kamarn river (a
tributaory of Mekong River). Now 50 households are using pump irrigation for cultivation of dry season paddy (30
Based on a participatory assessment (PRA) at the irrigation scheme in a village in Southern
Laos, it summarizes the wetland community members’ perceptions towards irrigation-induced affects on farm income
and several other facets of the rural livelihoods. This includes assessment on irrigation brought changes (both positive
and negative) on wetland resources use and local environment, availability and use of fish and aquatic resources, etc.
The field assessment was done in September 2006.
Results, conclusions, and key message:
5-6 years time, the smallholder irrigation has resulted substantial benefits to rural livelihoods and helped transferming
the village to a rice surplus, out of acute rice deficit (food insecured) village.
• The irrigation scheme also led to
the increased community well-being, as the irrigation has allowed them to substantialy increase dry season paddy
production areas, employment creation, and significantly enhanced food security in the village. In a region with a very
high unemployment level (over 50%), the irrigation scheme has helped creating substantial employment oppotunities,
and helped benefiting also to the landless communities and improving community livelihoods, imprioving health and
nutrition of all the community members.
• Contrary to the exiting literature, the community members, including
fishers, do not consider any adverse impact of the irrigation on aquatic resources use in the river.
management of irrigation and aquatic resources use is feasible by prudent planning, and incentived based water
withdrawal (timing and level of water).
• In the studied scheme, the farmers’ are paying almost full operation
cost of running the pumps. The farmers are paying over US$50/ha for irrigating (5-6 times) in the dry season of
2005/06. The high irrigation charge has created a strong incentive to the farmers not to overuse the water, rather run
the pumps only when it is absulutly needed. Each irrigating farmer has to share the electricity costs of the scheme at
the end of cropseason (per unit basis of the electricity consumed), thus the incentive to use pump is inbuilt here.
The field channel (concrete) of the irrigtation scheme is of oversized. With a prudent irrigation planning and
consultation with the community, the scale, size, and nature of the scheme could have been better adjusted which
could have saved nearly half of the irrigation cosntruction cost than what was spent then.