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Ruling by canal: Governance and system-level design characteristics of large-scale irrigation infrastructure in India and Uzbekistan

Peter P. Mollinga
Department of Development Studies, SOAS University of London, London, UK; pm35@soas.ac.uk

Gert Jan Veldwisch
Water Resources Management Group of Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands; gertjan.veldwisch@wur.nl

ABSTRACT: This paper explores the relationship between governance regime and large-scale irrigation system design by investigating three cases: 1) protective irrigation design in post-independent South India; 2) canal irrigation system design in Khorezm Province, Uzbekistan, as implemented in the USSR period, and 3) canal design by the Madras Irrigation and Canal Company, as part of an experiment to do canal irrigation development in colonial India on commercial terms in the 1850s-1860s. The mutual shaping of irrigation infrastructure design characteristics on the one hand and management requirements and conditions on the other has been documented primarily at lower, within-system levels of the irrigation systems, notably at the level of division structures. Taking a 'social construction of technology' perspective, the paper analyses the relationship between technological structures and management and governance arrangements at irrigation system level. The paper finds qualitative differences in the infrastructural configuration of the three irrigation systems expressing and facilitating particular forms of governance and rule, differences that matter for management and use, and their effects and impacts.

KEYWORDS: Canal irrigation, design, governance, management, India, Uzbekistan