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Delivery of Canal Water in North India and West Pakistan

W. Eric Gustafson and Richard B. Reidinger
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 6, No. 52 (Dec. 25, 1971), pp. A157-A162
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4382909
Page Count: 6
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Delivery of Canal Water in North India and West Pakistan
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Abstract

The canal systems in North India and West Pakistan were set up by and large to prevent famine, at a time when it seemed more effective to spread the water thinly to provide each district a measure of famine insurance rather than to depend on transporting grain from surplus districts to deficit districts in this largely pre-railway age. In the context of modern agriculture in which the time of delivery of water is as important as its amount, there are significant defects in the way in which the water is delivered under this system. The farmer cannot control water delivery to ensure its taking place when he needs it, nor can he predict water timing in a particular year so that he can choose his crops and the planting, fertilising and water schedules in such a way as to make the most of the water when he gets it. One important way in which controllability of water might be achieved in some measure would be for farmers to sell water to one another or trade in it. Water trading and water sale are not now permissible. Yet these devices permit those closest to the growing of the crops to determine when water is of value to them and when it would be more advantageous to them to sell water or to advance or postpone its delivery as made possible by complementary needs on the part of others with whom water trading or sale is possible. The idea of small-scale water sales and swaps within a given area may seem radical to those accustomed to a system which does not now include this feature, but a number of contrasting irrigation systems in various parts of the world include such practices. One possible development to facilitate sale and trading of water might be some form of waterusers' associations, comprising all farmers on a given outlet or watercourse, which could contract with the government for timed delivery of water and then manage internally the problem of allocation among ultimate recipients.

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