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close this bookDesign and Operation of Smallholder Irrigation in South Asia (WB, 1995, 134 p.)
close this folderChapter 9 - Operation and maintenance
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentInadequate budget for O and M
View the documentDesilting of canals
View the documentWeed control in canals
View the documentOperation of partially completed systems
View the documentNight irrigation
View the documentMonitoring of project performance
View the documentApplication of computers to irrigation system operation
View the documentSocial and political pressures in system operation

Social and political pressures in system operation

In addition to technical factors, social and political pressures may also have profound influence on the functioning of an irrigation project. The question of individual and group interests in relation to operations within the tertiary command has already been referred to, and will be discussed later in connection with cultivator organizations.

There are two other factors, much less discussed, which can have a major influence on system operation. The first is political pressure, exerted by local elected representatives on field staff of the irrigation department, to secure operations favorable to their constituents. Such pressures can be acute during periods of deficiency when it is necessary to ration, restrict supply to certain types of crop, or delete supply to portions of the command. The pressure is reinforced by the ability, at political level, to secure desirable posts or transfers for Departmental staff and equally the threat of undesirable transfers.

The second factor is the existence in some areas of a parallel unofficial system of water levies. Together with kick-backs from contractors at established rates, the funds are reported to flow upwards for disbursement at various levels in accordance with traditional percentages. This system is not everywhere practiced, but where it is its functioning is well organized.

The ethics of such practices are not part of this discussion, but rather their implications regarding system operations. Imposing an unofficial levy for the supply of water implies the ability to withhold supply if the levy is not forthcoming. This requires the existence of control structures. In fact, the more sophisticated the control system the more susceptible it is to such mismanagement. This observation is not intended as an argument for universal basic simplicity in system design, but it does underline the need for consideration of the factors discussed, where they apply, in deciding upon a particular operational system.