Functioning of Water Users Associations or Pani Panchayat in Orissa: Principle, Procedure, Performance and Prospects

Sushanta Kumar Mahapatra
Research Scholar,
Madras Institute of Development Studies,
No-79, Second Main Road, Gandhi Nagar,
Adyar, Chennai-600 020, Tamil Nadu, India


The current paper deals with an evaluation of water management through community participation and emergence of Pani Panchayat (PP) in a case study of the Vir Bajrang Bali Pani Panchayat under Lift Irrigation Project of the Hirakud Command Area (HCA), Orissa state in Eastern India . The broad objective of this paper is to examine the functioning of Water User Association (WUA) or Pani Panchayat promoted by the State and the local traditional irrigation institutions in the HCA, Orissa and to evaluate their functioning & characteristics in the context of local water management. The precise objectives are: (1) to analytically review the Orissa Farmers Management of Irrigation Systems Act and study the functioning of the Pani Panchayat, (2) to examine people's participation (3) study the apparatus of water management and control, and the impact of such management on productivity among the members and (4) to recommend policy interventions to make the formal institutions more successful. The paper concludes that the Pani Panchayats performance as regulatory institutions in charge of water distribution on equitable basis has been weak and unsuccessful. Even though the Pani Panchayat has been initiated and endorsed in the State for more than a couple of years, the acceptance of this model have been lethargic and scattered. As Pani Panchayat is a new concept needing experimentation and experience before finalisation of its content in greater detail, the irrigation agency is not in a position to spell out the different components of the programme in concrete terms. A detailed action plan should be prepared by the irrigation authority in consultation with the water users through Participatory Rural Appraisal method. A feasibility study should be under taken by examining the caste/class conflict, groupism, political differences and history of confrontation and conflict, if any. It is necessary to apply a bottom-up approach instead of a top-down one for sustainability. There must also be mechanisms to ensure that the benefits of the project are equally distributed to all concerned stakeholders.


Common property resource, farmer managed irrigation system, irrigation management, Orissa pani panchayat, participatory irrigation management, water management, water rights, water user association.             LEAD Journal - ISSN 1746-5893