A Case Study of Water Users Associations (WUA) or Pani Panchayat in Orissa: Principle, Procedure, Performance and Prospects

Recently Pani Panchayat (Water Council) as an institution in irrigation management and research in the collective management of Common Property Resources (CPRs) has paying attention of many researchers and policy makers. The current paper dealt with an evaluation of water management through community participation and emergence of Pani Panchayat in a case study of Vir Bajrang Bali Pani Panchayat under Lift Irrigation Project of the Hirakud Command Area (HCA), Orissa state in Eastern India. Broad objectives of this paper is to examine the functioning and otherwise of Water User Association (WUA) or Pani Panchayat promoted by the State and the local traditional irrigation institutions in the HCA, Orissa and to evaluate their functioning & characteristics in the context of local water management. The precise objectives are; (1) to analytically review the Orissa Farmers Management of Irrigation Systems Act and study the functioning of the Pani Panchayat, (2) to contrast the formal and informal institutions in terms of their formation, performance and success, (3) to examine about the peoples participation and their liveliness, (4) the apparatus of water management and control, and its impact of such management on productivity among the members and (5) to recommend policy interventions to make the formal institutions more successful. The paper concludes that the Pani Panchayat as regulatory institutions in charge of water distribution on equitable basis, their performance has been reasonably weak and unsuccessful. Even though Pani Panchayat has been initiated and endorsed in the State for more than a couple of years, the acceptance of the model have been lethargic and scattered. As Pani Panchayat is a new concept needing enough experimentation and experience before finalization of its content and constituent in greater detail, the irrigation agency is not in a position to spell out the different component of the programme in concrete terms, the farmers should be informed accordingly. Otherwise frequent changes in the provisions will give a confusing picture to the farmers and they will lose confidence in the irrigation authority. A detailed action plan should be prepared in consultation with the water users through Participatory Rural Appraisal method. A feasibility study should be under taken by examining the caste class conflict, groupism, political differences and history of confrontation and conflict if any. It is necessary to apply bottom-up approach instead of top-down for sustainability. There must also be mechanisms to ensure that the benefits of the project are equally distributed to all concerned stakeholders.

Key Words: Water User Association, Participatory Irrigation Management, Farmer Managed Irrigation System, Pani Panchayat , Formal & Informal Irrigation Institutions, Common Property Resource, Water Management, Orissa, India