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Women, water and work - examining the role of the statecraft in irrigation management in Northern India

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The role of the state in irrigation is contentious in India. The debate over the state’s position and capability to deal with environmental changes in rural areas is largely reflected in the management of irrigation systems in Northern India.The Kangra Valley, in Himachal Pradesh, has a long history of using /kuhls/, narrow and annually-dug drainage lines, to capture surface runoffs from monsoons and snowmelt for irrigation. While these systems have been traditionally built, operated and maintained by male villagers, in the past decades numerous /kuhls/’s have been overtaken by the state and their management left under the responsibility of the Irrigation and Health Department (IPH). Since 1985, incentives to transfer operation and maintenance of state owned irrigation canals to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) have brought changes in the gender dynamics of /kuhl /management. With new policies to increasingly involve women with PRIs and the rising number of women engaging with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the agency of women is now becoming an integral part of the decision-making and carrying collective actions on /kuhls/, as opposed to existing patriarchal traditional management system. Using a household survey and interviews the research provides a comparative evaluation of the multiple roles of women in irrigation management and to what extent different irrigation management regimes lead to better meeting the needs of female water users as reflected in their level of participation and decision making.

This talk is part of the Political Ecology Group meetings series.

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