Govta WUA is the largest WUA that we have been working with. The command area of the reservoir covers 17 villages, with the reservoir itself having a storage capacity of 11 million cubic meters. Since the responsibility of maintaining these channels is with the Water Resources Department, those that depend on water from these channels have rarely had to contribute to its maintenance. Even generation of financial resources to fund expenses was never really their concern, with revenue department engaging its operative at the village level to do the needful – local patwari. However, man power requirements to ensure collection of relevant tariffs and timely repairs have failed to cope up with local demands. The burden therefore fell on water users of the irrigation system, whose access to critical irrigation stood compromised.
The concept of Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) was demonstrated in the field with Water User Groups comprising beneficiaries lying within the command area created. Even though, intense capacity building exercises were conducted; the lack of financial resources to meet out routine O&M expenses were restricting successful demonstrations.
Irrigation tariffs have been standard instruments adopted by local patwari to generate revenue. Equipped to estimate water tariffs based on type of crop owned, they have been maintaining such farmer wise records. However, issues of inequity have often plagued the regularization of this process. Unsatisfied with allocations of water, there was an unwillingness to pay legitimate dues.
Concerted efforts were made during the meetings with the WUA to initiate processes of tariff collection. Successes were recorded with several members of the WUA contributing their share of the irrigation tariff. A significant achievement was the arrival at a common consensus among all members for collection of irrigation tariffs twice the highest tariff. Having successfully initiated processes of tariff collection, they were amongst the few to have done that.
While 100 percent compliance in terms of tariff collection is a challenge;, Govta WUA found that these small stepping stones were strong starting points. While Govta WUA will have to intensify efforts for addressing the issue of equity in distribution of its waters, acceptance and effective implementation of the ‘barabandhi system’ of water distribution might not only improve equity but also bring greater number of irrigation tariff payers into the loop.