How can water management in the Bac Hung Hai irrigation system, Red River be harmonised?

How can water management in the Bac Hung Hai irrigation system, Red River be harmonised?

How can water management in the Bac Hung Hai irrigation system, Red River be harmonised?

11:35 - 15/03/2018

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Bac Hung Hai irrigation system is the largest of nine irrigation systems in the Red River Delta. Increasing water demand in the entire delta and deteriorating water quality due to climatic and human factor are major challenges in the irrigation system.  The Bac Hung Hai irrigation system faces water disputes dealing with both quantity and quality of water between the sub-regions and among water users. So far, the management policies, allo

Bac Hung Hai irrigation system is the largest of nine irrigation systems in the Red River Delta. Increasing water demand in the entire delta and deteriorating water quality due to climatic and human factor are major challenges in the irrigation system.  The Bac Hung Hai irrigation system faces water disputes dealing with both quantity and quality of water between the sub-regions and among water users. So far, the management policies, allocation and monitoring of water resources have not been able to handle these challenges  in a satisfactory manner due to its large size and complex characteristics, the process of implementing the policies on management and operation of irrigation works in Bac Hung Hai irrigation system still has many shortcomings. The objective of this blog is to propose and discuss a number of measures in management policies of irrigation systems to contribute to harmonize the distribution of water for water users and promoting the effectiveness of monitoring and improving water quality. This would minimize disputes and conflicts on water in this irrigation system and contribute to stabilize livelihoods and production structure for people.

Irrigation management is still based on state owned company large scale mechanisms and planning

The agricultural work has been undertaking by households. They owned the plots, lands for farming and livestock without rights of water from the irrigation system. They were difficult to share water harmonically and monitoring water quality closely. Meanwhile, the issue of water management in large-scale not understand thoroughly the fact of water use in each smaller scale. Therefore, the organization and management of irrigation system in smaller scale have important role to people can proactive access with their water supply in line with its own characteristics of each region.  

Currently, the Bac Hung Hai irrigation system still applies the management mechanisms after public company model, managing the entire irrigation system. This covers the repair, maintenance and monitoring of irrigation works, distribution of water and financial planning for irrigation projects. Management is carried out at level of province and district that lacks of the detailed control at smaller scale such as communal level or farm and water user level. So far, most of the provinces in Bac Hung Hai irrigation system don’t have regulations on the development of water use organizations on province level yet. While the implementation of Decree 67 in 2012 of the Government providing exploitation and protection of irrigation works focused mainly on disbursement procedures, disregard the role of water users, the strategy to develop Participatory Irrigation Management has not yet been adjusted and completed accordingly and has limited the implementation results of the strategic framework proposed.

Figure 1 - Bac Hung Hai irrigation on a large scale including 4 provinces

After a long period under the management of state agencies, the users of irrigation systems are not concerned repairing properly the irrigation infrastructure which is seriously degraded. They tend to wait for state allocated funds for repair and maintenance works, so although enormous capitals for repairs are needed, irrigation efficiency is decreasing. The government budget for operation and maintenance of work systems is declining while this works often need large amounts of investment. The water distribution and maintenance of canals of inter-village and inter-communal are ineffective. The consciousness of participation in irrigation works management is not high. Still the situation of the people do not adhere to the rotating irrigation schedule, do themselves taking water by chiselling the hole on channels of level 2 make the low water use efficiency, the water use still wasted. The communes of head channels often use water wasted 5-10 times against the design while 90-100% of the communes of tail channels in water shortage. The agricultural communes in the head channel with favourable water are less interested in dredging and maintenance works, while the agricultural communes downstream and at the secondary channels often lack water, and need to mobilize resources to dredge the channel and even appointed the guardian for intakes along the canals level 2 to carry water for the irrigation area of tail canal. The rice yield in the communes at end of the channel is also much lower. Therefore there is the inadequacy on the infield irrigation charge between agricultural communes at the head and tail of the channel. The agricultural communes at the end of channel usually suffer the infield irrigation charge more to pay for the water watchmen along secondary canals of inter-village and inter-communal. The irrigation cost in commune at the end of channel typically increased from 1.5 to 2 times.


Figure 2 - The downstream farmers have to put the pump and canal dredging

Some households have the production land at high lying paddy fields, so it is difficult for them to get water from canals of commune. These water users pump water from irrigation channels, wells or ponds, natural pools. In the dry season, these areas are also shallow and so there is no water to irrigate crops, "entrust on nature". Also, to get irrigation water for agriculture, the farmers have to operate themselves the water pump or hire the pump for about 150-200 thousand dong per pole vault and they only dare to hire 1 time for 1 crop. Because if hired pumping several times, the cost will be very high and much higher than the amount collected. Some families have to perform watering manually like carrying water from the river to irrigate crops.

Community consultation activities (both men and women) showed that people want to be involved in the management and extraction of water resources and irrigation works when there were construction investment projects. The households petition that since the design is necessary to ask the opinion of the people concerning the actual situation of water resources as well as the best way to exploit water effectively, to avoid the situation of the construction works does not promote the effect, causing waste of resources, interrupt and difficult for people in the extraction of water resources.


Figure 3 - Due to many contaminated water canal, so people have to buy water from other localities

Most people who attend public consultation agreed that water management for agriculture needs to be improved more. The irrigation canal system needs to be upgraded and solidified to ensure the water is clean and full. The reclamation of canal system should be implemented "as soon as possible". At the same time they also want to have drainage ditch system for waste water types of living and livestock. The existing irrigation and drainage systems are combined into one, so be a difficulty in drainage, affecting the environment and health of people. The women are considered more affected because they're at home and working more in the agricultural production.

The reality in the Bac Hung Hai area showed that gender issues are not sufficiently addressed and that that women are not esteemed as men in terms of social, economic and political development. Women should be encouraged to participate in the extraction of water sources because they are knowledgeable about the cultivated land and the water demand than men. However, their involvement seems less than men due to still affected by traditional gender stereotypes. The issues of water resources dispute often taking place in areas which does not guarantee the water source, the infield canals incomplete, especially don't have an institutional organization of full irrigation management or weak operation (lack of capacity and force source) or have no similar organizations to carry out management tasks of infield irrigation, no cooperative organization of water use with participatory of community. Woman involved in taking water more than men but the most vulnerable in access to and use of water resources when arising disputes. Therefore on the basis of community relations in water use, the state should establish and strengthen water use institutions in the form in line with the local reality.


Figure 4 - Women often involved directly in cultivation and taking water

In terms of gender as mentioned above, due to the hard work, so most people engaged in irrigation and drainage were men. Especially the men also occupy majority of communal officials and company of irrigation management. Therefore, the comments and decision in the work of irrigation and drainage are mainly from men, women have little voice or often give opinion through her husband. To enhance the participation of women, need to mitigate the heavy properties of the work by construction of works conveniently so that women can undertake the job. These are important suggestions for the development of gender action plans in order to propagate and disseminate information to raise awareness about the role and position of women, and there are plans for training, retraining and capacity building of women in the activities of exploit water resources participatory of this group.

Comes from the management status of irrigation systems, the study aims proposed in the organizational management structure that the water user representatives and the state body representative together attend and keep important role in all aspects and all levels in irrigation management.

Suggested management strategies to address these challenges

This study suggests a management practice with the participation of the people in which a number of functions of management, operation or maintenance previously under the responsibility of state agencies, are transferred to the responsibilities and organization of the users. This is the process in which the residential groups of community have an effect on the process of planning, implementation, use, management or maintenance of a service, equipment or a scope of operation. After being transferred, local organization will have full responsibility and power in the operation, management, maintenance and promotion of assigned infrastructural projects. First through the calculation of water demand and modelling under its own characteristics of each region using water, the study has divided into 18 regions as shown in Figure 5 corresponds to 18 irrigation management organizations for each region. They will receive training and funding allocated for those directly involved and those water use organizations will bear full responsibility within their boundaries. When there are water issues related to other water use regions, they will suggest the inadequacies through the representatives of their water use organization.

Figure 5 - Recommendation of 18 water use organizations on 18 characteristic regions of community

The community involvement is also a process by which the state authorities, the relevant organizations and the communities get some specific responsibilities together and conduct activities to provide specific services in irrigation management and water distribution for all communities. The community involvement ensures those affected or beneficiaries of the project are involved in the project decision. Besides, the participation of the people in the community through the organizations of exploit and use of water makes water distribution more equitable between upstream and downstream households. Also, people will protect irrigation works in a best way when they are encouraged to participate. In the formation of water user groups the role of women should be reconsidered as they are interested and understand best the water needs for production, so in improvement of community relations in irrigation activity, women have a very important factor.


Figure 6 - Management of irrigation systems and decision making should be the participation of community