A road less travelled: The Waghad project

A group of farmers in Maharashtra overcame challenges posed by a community-based irrigation system, to manage their water and their livelihoods. How did they do it?
7 Sep 2014
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Waghad Project:Community managed irrigation system
Waghad Project:Community managed irrigation system

Waghad Dam in Nashik, Maharashtra, constructed in 1984-85, irrigated less than 1% of its total irrigable command area, while farmers in the tail area did not receive any water. Bapu Upadhye of Samaj Parivartan Kendra organised the local farmers, mobilized them to come together and fight for their water quota.

The motivated farmers formed various WUAs (Water User Association) and quickly brought the whole command area of the dam under their network. Soon after, all WUAs were federated and on November 1, 2003, the management of the Waghad Dam was transferred to the WUAs Federation.

The specifics of the initiative are noted below.

Scale of the project

  • 15000 farmers are member of 24 WUAs
  • They irrigate 10000 hectares land
  • Implemented in 19 villages
  • Tail end farmer get timely and sufficient quantity of water

Federation’s success secretsV Notch scale to measure water to levy taxes (Source:ACWADAM)

  • Closely monitored water management system
  • Measurement of water is essential
  • Water tax levied from every farmer based on use

Change of fortunes

  • Water tax paid to government increased by 15 times
  • Assured supply of water increased returns of innovative farmers by more than 50 times
  • Number of beneficiaries from the dam increased

Innovative vision of the people

  • Concept of economic ‘value’ to water
  • Water tax charged from well owners as they too benefitted
  • No new well or borewell constructed in the last 15 years
  • Crop planning only after review of available water in dam and water budgeting exercise
  • Farmers use drip and sprinklers to use water judiciously
  • Farmers keep field channels clean and free of garbage to save water and prevent blockages
  • Defaulters punished through social pressure or fines

Major achievement

The implementation of the Management of Irrigation eSystems by the Farmers Act, 2005, in Maharashtra, that equips farmers to come together and manage their irrigation sources through WUAs.

Challenges ahead

  • Assured supply encourages farmers to go for water-intensive crops
  • If the dam fails to supply this, there is a chance of groundwater exploitation in the future
  • May also lead to future investment in wells and borewells

The Waghad project success story is one of the largest and more  successful examples of Participatory Irrigation Management in the country. 

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