Designing Collective Action: Problems of Local Water Management in Tiruchi District
A wide range of factors shapes irrigation institutions and collective action with regard to irrigation. They include the distribution of land across irrigation command areas and across classes, land tenure systems, access to new technology such as bore wells, the availability and cost of electricity and other energy sources for lifting groundwater, and, above all, state policies related to irrigation. Participatory irrigation management is hampered severely by policies in irrigation, such as the unregulated use of bore wells with free electricity provided by the state, that most benefit rich farmers. The paper, which is based on fieldwork conducted in Karur and Tiruchirapalli districts in Tamil Nadu in 1980 and in 2005, argues that the rapid and mostly unregulated development of well irrigation without any concomitant change in the legal framework and costing structure, and the lack of an objective basis for all water users to come together in collective action (given their different and often potentially conflicting interests), are the major causes for weakening collective action in irrigation management.
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