Monthly Archives: August 2007

Exploring the Payment for Ecosystems Services Concept in Large Catchments in India

 CISED Research Team: Shrinivas Badiger, Reshmidevi T.V., Smitha G., Iswaragouda Patil, Chandrahasa, and Vidya A.

Collaborating Institution: Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Oslo (NIVA)

Water resources management in catchments has become an increasingly contentious issue in the subcontinent. Public policy instruments using a command-and-control approach, such as upstream forest protection or regulation of groundwater extraction, have yielded limited results. More flexible public policy instruments such as the Payments for Ecosystems Services (PES) approach are being proposed, and such instruments are being tried out elsewhere in the world, as complementary solutions to existing regulatory and collective action approaches. Exploring PES or specifically Payments for Watershed Services (PWS) in large catchments in India will require a substantial body of information and analysis of the hydrologic system, and on the economic and institutional context of water use for setting up a negotiating platform.

CISED has initiated a collaborative pilot study in the Malaprabha river basin to develop methods to quantify watershed services, develop scenarios for plausible service linkages, assess tradeoffs, and test the PES approach. The first part of the study involves the development of an integrated hydrological-economic analysis framework for the Malaprabha sub-basin, using existing data on land use, current allocation, and perceived demands for water from various sectors. The second part of the study will involve developing and testing a PES toolbox, for provision of improved water services in the downstream in two contexts: improving municipal water supply services to Bailhongal town and improving irrigation service to farmers in the Malaprabha command area.
The first output of the study has been a comprehensive literature review of the state-of-the-art in river basin analysis.  The review suggests that very few models can carry out the hydrologic analysis required for analysing PES-type of arrangements. No models exist that can comprehensively simulate the critical hydrologic processes, while also assessing impacts of inter- and intra-sectoral reallocation of existing resources or addition of new ones. Generally, stand-alone hydrologic models are unable to treat surface and groundwater interaction adequately. Amongst models focused on water allocation, most lack the ability to model hydrologic processes and some lack economic tradeoffs analysis. An integrated framework comprising loosely-coupled models for hydrologic analysis and allocation has been proposed for the Malaprabha basin, using a set of the most adequate modeling packages.

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A second output has been a review of currently functioning PWS initiatives with specific focus on understanding what biophysical, institutional, and economic feasibility constraints might affect feasibility of PWS in Asia. The reviewed cases show that PWS has the potential to benefit rural marginalized communities where areas of high poverty coincide with areas that provide valuable watershed services. However, the success of a PWS scheme will basically depend on the presence of certain socio-economic and institutional conditions and on the ability to develop the appropriate design of a programme for a specific context. In the absence of these conditions, PES may have negative impacts, especially on the landless if they are not accounted for in the arrangement.

To understand the status of upstream groundwater use for irrigated agriculture, an extensive survey of 280 borewell-owning households was carried out in 30 villages spread out in irrigated parts of the basin, covering upper and lower reaches of the basin equally. Groundwater irrigation is extensive and increasing rapidly over time: most households surveyed have shifted to groundwater irrigation (and correspondingly to irrigated crops) over the past decade. The depth of groundwater has also declined gradually across the region, with the depletion being much higher in the lower reaches, due to lesser rainfall and greater water use due to a focus on sugarcane cultivation.

A contingent valuation exercise was carried out in the command area of the Malaprabha reservoir covering villages in the head reach, middle, tail end and lift irrigation areas. The objective was to assess the perceptions of the farmers regarding current institutional arrangements for canal water supply and their willingness to pay (WTP) for improved canal water supply. First, current levels of payment towards irrigation services are very low. Almost 68 percent of the farmers in our sample of 400 households did not pay water fees after the last drought in 2003-2004. Similarly, 76 percent of bore well owners, who made up 33 percent of the sample, had never paid electricity fees, the main cost of the principal substitute for canal water irrigation. Second, water availability was as much a problem for bore well users as for canal users, because of limited and erratic electricity supply. Among the 87 percent of farmers who responded to the WTP survey, 93 percent showed positive WTP for one-time canal repair. Several factors expected to affect WTP of farmers to participate in canal repair were assessed using multiple regression techniques on WTP. The willingness to pay depended positively on the level of education, family income, number of household members engaged in farming, location of the village in the tail-end, and the household’s membership in water user cooperative societies, while it was negatively correlated with the farm’s distance from the river and main canal, with whether the farmer had paid water tariff after the last drought, and also some perception variables.

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In the next phase of the project, the economic analysis will be integrated with the institutional feasibility study carried out in the command area. Simultaneously, we have initiated an exercise to estimate WTP for improved domestic water supplies for urban households in Bailhongal town facing scarcity during regular and seasonal supplies, and a Willingness-to-Accept exercise with farmers in the upper reaches for reducing groundwater use so as to make the water available for downstream towns such as Bailhongal.

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Discourses of Water, Development and Sector Reforms in Water in Maharashtra

Researcher: Priya Sangameswaran

Over the last decade, various sectors that provide public service goods, such as water, power, and health, are being restructured. In the realm of water, these “reforms” have typically included elements like participatory irrigation management, increased emphasis on the economic dimensions of water provision, the adoption of demand-driven approaches, requiring users to contribute to costs, greater power to local bodies, establishment of regulatory authorities, and corporate involvement.

This research explored different dimensions of the reform process, both in rural and urban areas, and across domestic, agricultural, and industrial/commercial uses of water. It focused on the interaction between mainstream discourses on water and development, and the motivations of and interactions between diverse actors, especially the new ones (technical service providers, water auditors) that have emerged as a result of the reforms process. It views these changes in the context of larger debates about neo-liberal development, commodification of resources, rights, and equity.

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The study has observed a general trend towards formalization in various domains, as manifested by an emphasis on contracts and legislation, and on defining entitlements to water. The implications of this trend for equity and democratization are mixed. The study also finds that the process has already started to frame the terms of the discourse in the water sector and also to influence people’s attitudes/perceptions. Finally, the reform process is putting in place new forms of government, leading to new ways in which the state is functioning. All of these dimensions need to be critically interrogated.

Rethinking the Irrigation Dream: Pynes and Canals in Colonial Bihar

Researcher: Praveen Singh

The destruction of the traditional pyne system in the nineteenth century has not been adequately studied in historical accounts. The introduction of a modern canal system in the region was the final assault on a system already undermined by colonial land revenue policies. This study explores the nature of the conflict between indigenous and modern irrigation systems in Champaran district in colonial Bihar. It also revisits the debate on modern versus indigenous notions of technology in colonial India, with a particular emphasis on micro-level analysis. It concludes that the destruction of pyne irrigation was brought about as much by the economic and social pressures of colonization as by the technology of modern irrigation. Full Article homepage here

Case Study of Water Reforms in Hubli-Dharwad

Research Team: Priya Sangameswaran, in collaboration with Roopa Madhav and Clifton D’ Rozario

Under the Karnataka Urban Water Sector Improvement Project, the twin cities of Hubli-Dharwad in north Karnataka have been chosen as a pilot case for “24/7″ (supplying water twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week) and for the institutional and other changes required for private sector participation. While reforms in this locale are ongoing, the experience to date offers useful insights into and raises further questions about institutional relations, equity, the nature and extent of citizen participation, water provision financing, and conflicts between different uses of water. For instance, while there has been an attempt to provide certain concessions to the poor by way of the pro-poor policy under 24/7, there are still concerns about the overall impact of the project in terms of equity. The study underscores the need to engage with the kind of changes required in the water sector before institutionalizing processes that would be difficult to reverse in the future. The study is part of an IELRC research project on legal issues related to water restructuring.

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Hydrology and Watershed Services in the Western Ghats of India: Effects of land use and land cover change


The Western Ghats of India – a mountainous forested region running parallel to the west coast of the Indian peninsula – is one of the 25 global hotspots of biodiversity. These mountains are the sites of some of the heaviest rainfall in India – the runoff from which generates most of the hydropower and provides water to about 245 million people. This region contains more than 30% of all plant, bird, and mammal species found in India. These forest ecosystems also generate significant benefits to local communities, such as fuelwood, grazing, fodder, timber, leaf manure, food and medicines, and commercial non-timber forest products. These forest and grassland ecosystems have undergone extensive conversion to non-forest land-cover and the remnant areas are subject to intensive human-use with major negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The papers in this book represent a first attempt to capture the entire range of on-going hydrologic and socio-economic research on the effects of land-cover change on watershed services in the Western Ghats. This book is an attempt to summarize what we know and whatwe don’t know about hydrology in the Western Ghats. It will server as a baseline for future research, policy discussions and conservation activities. It will be of high reference value to the scientific community, government, policy makers, environmental activists and students of hydrology, biodiversity and ecology.

Editor Profiles

Jagdish Krishnaswamy is Fellow, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), Bangalore and Research Fellow, Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS), Bangalore. He has a B.Tech in Civil Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Bombay), an M.S. in Statistics and a Ph.D in Environmental Science, Duke University, North Carolina. Jagdish’s research and teaching interests are diverse and include watershed hydrology, applications of remote sensing in landscape analyses, applied landscape ecology and statistics.

Sharachchandra Lélé is Senior Fellow and Coordinator, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development, Bangalore. He has a B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering, IIT Bombay, an M.S. in Systems Science from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and a Ph.D. in Energy and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley. Sharachchandra Lélé’s research interests include analyses of institutional, economic, ecological and technological issues in forest, energy and water resource management.

R.Jayakumar Programme Specialist for Science, Technology and Environment, UNESCO, Beijing, has a B.Sc. from the University of Madras, an M.Sc. in Geology from Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu and a Ph.D. in Hydrogeology from Bharathidasan University, Tamil Nadu. His research and science administration interests include hydrogeology, water resource management and irrigation water management. He has contributed significantly in the capacity building of many research institutions in India through various UNESCO initiatives.

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For copies of this book, please get in touch with  T.K.Ganesha ( 

Colonial Zamindars and Flood Control: Environmental History of North Bihar on the Ground

Researcher: Praveen Singh

The dominant ideology driving colonial interventions in North Bihar was controlling the flood plain. The zamindar became the pivot for implementing these efforts, particularly in the construction of embankments, and various schemes were put in place to force zamindars to pay for construction activities. Along with the railways and roads, the uncontrolled manner in which many zamindari embankments were built further deteriorated the flood situation. By the middle of the nineteenth century, however, the dangers of obstructing the free flow of rivers were evident and by the 1930s, there was a general consensus among irrigation engineers that embankments were bad policy and should be removed wherever possible, but there were too many vested interests to allow this. The official solution was to build dams, then being touted not only as a flood control measure, but also as an avenue for employing World War II veterans.

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Although developments since 1947 have led to these dam projects being shelved, embankment construction returned on a major scale. Indeed, the structures of colonialism, ideas it propagated and social forces unleashed by it in rural areas, continue to influence flood policy. This study advocates that environmental histories need to be explored on the ground: a social, economic, and ecological layer immediately below but not outside that of the working of the colonial state.

Impact of Environmental Struggles and Political Theorizing on the Notion of Justice

A Study of the Dialogical Relations between Political Struggles against the Corporatization of Ground Water and the Political Theorization on ‘Rights’, ‘Justice’ and ‘Citizenship’

Researcher: T. Kannan

The study tries not only to address how the ongoing environmental struggles are influencing the political theory to emerge with some green political theoretical notions but also tries to understand how these changing theoretical notions of green political theory is influencing in turn the political articulations of the environmental movements. The present study understands the dialogic relationship that exists between environmental struggles and political theorization by analyzing the political struggles against the corporatization and commercialization of ground water in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The dominant voice of the commercialization of water, conceives water as an economic good that must be priced in market terms, not only to maintain the financial viability of water utilities, but also to reflect the “real” value of water, and to promote equity and resource sustainability. This view is contested and opposed by the affected local communities and civil society organizations. The political mobilization of the local communities in defence of their rights against the commercialization and corporatization has led to a significant paradigm shift in the articulation of notions of ‘Rights’, ‘Justice’ and ‘Citizenship’. The existing political theorizations on these notions have hardly any space for the ecological concerns of the new environmental movements. The critical positions of environmental political theory on the existing liberal notions of political obligation, citizenship, justice and rights can bring some new insights into the understanding of the emerging new environmental consciousness. The present study makes one such attempt to throw some new lights on emerging green political consciousness.

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