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.
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.
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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